of Montreal at The Haunt, Ithaca

Fans pack Ithaca's The Haunt for wonderfully weird show from Of Montreal

Review: Psychedelic indie rockers filled the stage with music, dancers and costumes for a true night of total performance.

Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes is his generation’s undiscovered David Bowie.

There’s something for everyone at an Of Montreal show. Even if you’re not into watching a rock ‘n’ roll musician dress up in makeup and glitter, the music will keep anyone dancing. However, don’t bring your kids, unless you’re okay with them seeing sensual dancers, strip teases and a man dressed in an inflated penis costume.

Photo: Abby Rose Sugnet
Ruby the RabbitFoot opens for Of Montreal at The Haunt.

There wasn’t a bad place to be standing during Of Montreal’s performance at Ithaca’s The Haunt. Wednesday night’s show was a true performance in every aspect, with music, costumes, characters and scenes.

The Haunt is described as a “mid-sized nightclub” – think of it as a bar that happens to bring in some awesome live indie rock-alternative music. The sound system isn’t the best, but there is good food – you win some, you lose some.

Somehow, Of Montreal managed to have dancers, actors and props consistently flowing on and off the claustrophobic stage. Seeing the band perform on a stage just big enough to fit the five members and their instruments left me dying to see what they’d do with a bigger venue.

Of Montreal played a range of songs from their 14 albums, including their newest one, Innocence Reaches, released last month. The music flowed from Prince-like funk to bass-heavy rock ‘n’ roll, with beautifully written ballads in between.

The music only stopped once throughout the whole set, which was due to a change of scenery. And while scene changes were kept to a minimum, Frontman Barnes switched up his outfit at least five times within the 90-minute performance.

The audience consisted of every type of hipster, ranging from nerd to skater to hippie moms and dads. There had to be less than 100 people, considering the shortage of space, but I’d never seen The Haunt so packed.

Most of the crowd stayed for the whole show, despite there being many fans of the opener, Ruby the RabbitFoot. Even after people flocked to Ruby at the merchandise table, fans didn’t pile out when Barnes came on stage dressed in drag.

Ruby called to mind the Mad Hatter, with her short, wild hair sticking out in every direction and bright, multicolored jacket. Her band consisted of four other people: a woman who could be Zooey Deschanel’s doppelgänger on bass, a drummer, a backup male singer in a cowboy hat, and a keyboardist who doubled as the cellist.

Ruby gleamed in the presence of a cheering crowd.

“What’s up with you guys? You’re too nice,” she said when the fangirls in front cheered for her. “This next song is about compulsively stealing things from Walgreens.”

Still, her music was pleasant and worth another listen. Ruby’s set ended with a wildcard — a cover of “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain — but it was a nice rendition of the song.

Before the opener, The Haunt often hosts a local band from Ithaca. Last night it was Junkyard Theory. They are a married couple named Emily and Shane Hoyt, and their Facebook profile describes them as “the finest electronic acid dub around."

Emily, a singer and flutist, has a similar vocal style to Norah Jones, but with a hip rock twist. Shane employs electronic beats, which complement his wife’s vocals. Junkyard Theory is clearly influenced by Björk, and the band even covered a Björk song at the end of the set.

It was a night of pure entertainment, in every sense of the word.

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