Convergence 2016: music + art + technology, the niche festival that brings live music, workshops and visual arts to some of the greatest venues across London for 10 days in March. Currently in its third year, this varied bill of events makes it a memorable occasion in the London Arts and Music scene.
Village Underground was one of the venues to open its doors to the festival this year, hosting none other than indie-rock veterans of Montreal, hailing from Athens, Georgia.
Opening the night was electronic music maker from Greece, Larry Gus. He wailed, leapt, and gyrated about onstage as he accosted everyone’s ears with all manner of screeches and electronic sounds. While the music had a good beat, and he was doing some interesting things musically, it was quite difficult to work out exactly what was going on.
Luckily it wasn’t long before it was time for of Montreal to take to the stage, and the crowd went ballistic as soon as front man Kevin Barnes set foot onstage; dressed head to toe in red, he looked quite the part, though perhaps a little less ‘glam’ than we have grown to expect from him.
‘Triumph of Disintegration’ was played early on, and it sounded particularly strong live. In fact their live sound as a whole was fantastic, like a very real version of their recorded music. They have a very large and varied back catalogue, with some exceptional song writing and very catchy tracks that are fun to sing along to. Throughout their set you could hear the British influences on their American sound; the moments of The Beatles and The Kinks coming through in the songwriting, and notes of Bowie in Barnes’s voice.
Softly spoken Barnes doesn’t banter much with the audience between songs in general, and when he tried to introduce their ‘prog rock’ song, ‘Life Ashoka’s Inferno Of Memory’, it was difficult to hear him over audience members carrying out their own conversations.
Up until this point, the energy levels onstage had been quite low, with not a lot of engagement from Barnes at all, but all was about to change with their 12th song, as Barnes propped up his guitar at the back of the stage, and they broke into ‘Plastis Wafer’. No longer encumbered by the instrument, we saw a whole new side of him, as he hammed it up, strutting around the stage, taking off his coat to reveal a fetching red satin halterneck top. Although he resumed playing his guitar again after this song, the audience had picked up on his energy, and before long the mosh pit had been transformed into a mess of bouncing, sweaty people, who continued to thrash about until the end of the show.
By the time it got to the encores, it had all become so loud that it was difficult to really pick out the nuances of their songs – ‘She’s a Rejector’ in particular sounded like a discordant rabble of noise – but the audience were thoroughly enjoying themselves regardless.
The show finished with the rambling, intense track, the epic 12 minute ‘The Past is a Grotesque Animal’, which unfortunately also disintegrated into a wall of noise, which was a little difficult to really hear what was going on in the song musically.
The show seemed to fluctuate between either having-no-energy-but-a-great-sound, or lots-of-energy-but-with-compromised-sound, which was somewhat disappointing to the music aficionados in attendance. However, the crowd as a whole were so excited about seeing of Montreal live that they weren’t too bothered, as long as there were songs for them to sing along to.
While Village Underground is always a fantastic venue, of Montreal didn’t seem to suit it quite as much as others might. Still, an enjoyable night was had by all, and we all filed out of the venue afterwards with the words ‘Convergence: music + art + technology’ emblazoned on the wall in lights to remind us what we had been a part of.
This of Montreal article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor. Lead photo by pfabij