Heels & Picks: The man in the Tetris suit

Feb. 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

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BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

You know what they say: “Never take advice from a man in a Tetris-print suit.”

Wait. Or is it, “Always take advice from a man in a Tetris-print suit?”

The Tetris-print suit belonging to of Montreal lead singer Kevin Barnes. (Star-Advertiser File)

The Tetris-print suit belonging to of Montreal lead singer Kevin Barnes. (Star-Advertiser File)

Either way, there was plenty of sordid love advice courtesy Kevin Barnes and his Tetris-print suit on Feb. 3 at The Republik when of Montreal hit the stage. I can’t lie; my friends and I were all super-jealous of that damned suit.

Hailing from Athens, Georgia, the band got its name from a failed romance Barnes once had with a woman from the artsy Canadian city.

Having spent some time in Montreal and knowing a fair number of French people, I can see how a French romance might be so all-encompassing that the failure of it would spark a band moniker. Undyingly cool, subtly chic and straight-faced, French culture definitely leaves an impression on the heart.

Of Montreal also left an impression on Honolulu fans, who showed up to check out the band’s newest incarnation and songs from 2013’s “Lousy with Sylvianbriar.”

If the writing references named by Barnes in the creation of the album are any indication, Sylvia Plath among them, the deep cuts of love are the driving force on the band’s latest album.

With a Bowie-style flare for theatrics and the vocal range to match, Barnes led the band through a set of solid glam indie-rock to an enthusiastic crowd. Esthetically, it was an odd lineup.

The breakdown on stage looked somewhat like this: Barnes’ off-beat glam, a female keyboardist with a Lana Del Rey-style flower child look, a guitar player dressed in cowboy gear and a second keyboardist looking like a cross between Elton John and a member of The Beatles, circa Sergeant Pepper. But their oddball flare is part of the band’s charm.

This is Barnes’ parade though, and the lineup often changes from album to album and tour to tour.

Indie rockers of Montreal perform at The Repblik on Feb. 3. (Star-Advertiser File)

Indie rockers of Montreal perform at The Repblik on Feb. 3. (Star-Advertiser File)

With a history of jarring left-turns on each of their 11 albums, of Montreal’s current sonic incarnation of Prince-meets-Dylan-inspired songs find Barnes pumping some serious pop — but not without his signature woe. The music was so engaging and solid, however, the sadness of the lyrical content was somewhat hard to notice during a live set. Which was just fine, as Barnes came to vamp and the crowd came to have fun.

Warming up the show with a sharp, solid set of Beatles-meets-White Stripes tunes, Honolulu’s Mano Kane made many new fans at The Republik that night. Three-part harmony and call-and-answer backing vocals are among Mano Kane’s hallmarks, and they use them well. Lead guitarist Chris Chorney, guitarist Kalani Puana and keyboardist Kate Greennagel’s voices blend in such a way that joy cuts through their rock foundation.

Mano Kane opens for of Montreal at The Republik on Feb. 3. (Star-Advertiser File)

Mano Kane opens for of Montreal at The Republik on Feb. 3. (Star-Advertiser File)

It’s no secret Greennagel is a personal friend of mine, and she and Chorney are some of my favorite people. Kate, who moonlights as a synth player in my solo band, adds undeniable, nonchalant sex appeal to Mano Kane’s set, and Chorney, a multi-instrumentalist who has lent his cello parts to records by Kanye West and Jay-Z, leads the charge with genuine rock artistry that resonates in his delivery. The man is feelin’ it.

Do yourself a favor and check out this local band before they are on tour for seven years or they blow up in a huge way and it costs you $75 to see them play live.
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Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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