Montreal with Surface to Air Missive at the Middle East Downstairs

Montreal with Surface to Air Missive at the Middle East Downstairs

It struck me that the venue was packed when I arrived a half hour before the opening act was supposed to go on; at all of the shows I’ve seen at the Middle East, the venue only starts to fill up until right before the lead is supposed to go on. Of Montreal is obviously very popular in Boston.

First was Surface to Air Missive, a rock band from Tallahassee. Combining the southern rock of the Allman Brothers Band and something like of Montreal’s Polyvinyl label meets Deerhoof’s lo fi indie, Surface to Air Missive was a pleasant surprise, and definitely worth checking out.

Those who hoped that the band would play all of the hits from Hissing Fauna or other earlier albums, and ignore the newer stuff would have been disappointed by the set list. This is a tour for Lousy with Sylvianbriar, first and foremost. However,  they did do an admirable job of playing the songs everyone wanted to hear.

This was my first time seeing Of Montreal live, so I don’t have a point of comparison to comment on their performance, but all of the songs benefited from the energy of playing live and there were no duds. Big hits like For Our Elegant Caste, Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and Other Games), Gronlandic Edit, and She’s A Rejector all made appearances, as did Croquet Croquette which was a pleasant surprise off of their album False Priest.

Showing their experience as a band that has toured for years, Of Montreal worked hard to get the crowd involved. Announcing the band and doing some great standup was singer Kevin Barnes’ brother and Of Montreal art director David Barnes dressed as a Lucha Libre wrestler. There was also a group sing along during the encore leading into Gronlandic Edit.

Their new album Lousy with Sylvianbriar in particular translated to a live show very well. The moments of slide guitar combined with their very effective rhythm section had an energy that did not translate well to the recorded versions, and so seeing them play the songs live helped me understand what the album was all about. It feels like even more of a return to their earlier sound than it does on the record, with its less electronic, more rock based arrangements and song structures.

Unfortunately, the crowd at this show was by far the worst that I’ve ever seen at any show. Spilled beers, too many people on more drugs than they could handle, obnoxious hecklers yelling at the band, and very aggressive pushers almost ruined the experience for me.

Thankfully, thanks to the bands great performance, song selection, and energy, it was a great concert. Next time Of Montreal makes it to town, I highly recommend you check them out.


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