"An Open Letter to Kevin Barnes," or "Maybe The Horse Was A Bit Much"

Dear Kevin,

Don’t get me wrong. I love you, I love your music. I love the gradual strip tease otherwise known as your costume changes. However, seeing you at The Music Hall of Williamsburg last Wednesday night, standing mere feet away from your bare torso and go-go boots, I came to a realization.

I really want the skits to stop. You know the ones I mean: a quartet of masked figures in genitalia-emphasizing bodysuits, reenacting ambiguous battles in very. slow. motion. You smear the audience with glitter, feathers, and sometimes cups of applesauce. Occasionally you don a giant lobster claw and join in the fun. But the thing is, now that I’ve seen you do this crazy shtick several times over in various permutations, it dawned on me that this is not why I go see Of Montreal shows.

If you knew me (and lord, that would totally rock my world, Mr. Barnes), this makes no sense. I love glam, I love glitter, theatrics, cross-dressing and all-out wierdness. In other words, pretty much everything you put into your concerts these days. But I think of the first time I saw you, and really that’s the best way to explain my plea. I went on a whim to a CMJ show, barely knowing your music–that concert was just you and the band on stage at the knitting factory, you in white sailor-pants and a pink pashmina (BP didn’t even have his wings yet!).  And it was hands-down one of the best live shows I’ve been to on my own. The entire crowd was dancing, and we all know New York indie kids don’t dance unless the Power of Christ compels them.

That’s what makes you such a great band to see live–not the antics, not the possibly-symbolic-but-probably-just-wierd-for-the-sake-of-wierd performance art (or am I being redundant)? You, Kevin, are freakishly charismatic, as are most of your bandmates. So my only guess as to why your show has become so batshit crazy in the last couple years (other than slowly growing popularity via the commercial that shall not be named) is that a) you think the long musical interludes in your songs aren’t interesting enough on their own b) you get bored while playing them, and this is your entertainment c) you’re really that pretentious.

If I’m honest, it’s probably “c,” but you know what: it won’t stop me from going to your shows. I just think perhaps you’re gilding the lily a bit–I’m all for you covering The Kinks in a leather thong, surprisingly underwhelmed by the sight of you in hot pants astride a white stallion. I’ll keep going, because you still make some f-ing great music, and I’m still holding out for the Bowie covers you seem to play at every show except the ones I’ve seen. But maybe, just maybe, you should stroke your giant ego in a slightly different manner–let your freak flag fly, my love, minus the embellishments. I promise you it’s entertainment enough.