You have to wonder what sort of portent a dream is that consists of viewing a live performance of Bryan Cranston blithely swimming with dolphins while evading the malevolent, aquatic slugs creeping around in the fathoms of a deep and inky manmade pool. The play has no clear narrative: just Cranston wading around with these marine mammals that sometimes are made of their typical gray, slick surfaces and sometimes a racier, red latex. Sometimes Cranston is the dolphin, squirming his way into their slippery hides. Most frequently, he just floats about until the ominous bass thumps against the auditorium walls indicating that a slug, with what looks to be spikes or just a pronounced flagellum and cilia like those of the paramecium, slides across the murky bottom hoping to attack. Strangely, it never does. This is partly because the few young women in the audience dive into the waters and prevent it from happening. I even saved a girl with flaxen curls and chubby cheeks from an untimely death while all other patrons of the theater literally were frozen in their indifference.
On certain viewings, there is more than one Cranston. A Cranston with a strawberry blond beard and a mischievious twinkle in his eye, a Cranston in a Mounty uniform, a clean-shaven Cranston in a clerical collar. They circle the perimeter of the pool just watching “Dolphin Cranston” paddle about.
There is a woman in charge of the entire operation and she aggressively recruits the audience to not only be a part of the show, but earn wages by navigating their way through these treacherous waters brimming with Emmy-award winning talent. All you have to do is fill out a timesheet before you wake up.
There were many epic moments during Friday’s Of Montreal show at Terminal 5:
1) When my friend and I went totally beserk upon hearing the first blurpy, ectastic notes of ”The Party’s Crashing Us!”, flailing around maniacally like a pair of black wizards. This is probably the moment when the bell sleeve on my new party dress was doused in some unidentifiable liquid within proximity. It was also the moment when another pair of ladies next to us assessed our silly, carefree twirlings and quickly departed from the area. I had become one of those people and I didn’t even care.
2) Kevin Barne’s incredibly moving cover of Sibylle Baier’s “Tonight”. A semi-circle of moon-shaped, skullchildren crowded around to quietly watch his performance via black-and-white video screen as if it were a transmission outside of space or time. Like the power of music itself. This subdued moment in the show, a departure from the high-energy, hedonistic free-for-all, was all the more powerful because of its earnest simplicity. The haunting, restrained performance was a vivid reminder that Barnes is perfectly capable of capturing the dark beauty in one’s mundane and external reality, as well as the sexually-charged, near dangerous whimsy of one’s interior one.
3) The MICHAEL JACKSON encore. I am sure at this point I probably irritated even more fellow concertgoers with spirited choreography brought to you by rum and nostalgia.
4) Janelle Monae’s inhabitation of Klaus Nomi’s soul by the way of Outkast flavor and unadulterated James Brown showmanship.
5) But no epic moment rivaled the sighting of Andre Leon Talley, the former Editor-at-Large and current contributing editor of Vogue magazine! As he stepped out of his luxury vehicle in front of the venue, I immediately became a giddy fashionista wannabe. He was wearing some shiny kimino jacket-shorts combo and celebrity shades, his hulking mass of glamour and guts towering over all of us little people. His literally larger-than-life, extravagant aesthetic was very appropriate for the fantastical coupling of Janelle Monae and Of Montreal. During “Tightrope”, I caught sight of him in the VIP mezzanine, tapping one outrageously expensive loafer.
Pitchfork’s closing remarks on of Montreal’s solid latest release, False Priest, were rather disconcerting to me: “it might also be time for Barnes to find his muse outside of the bedroom.” Um, what? Is any muse really found outside of the den of iniquity? I thought the muse was always somehow of the fleshy realm. Whether in actual idealized male/female form, or as a representation of those physical needs that are transformed into the sublime when put to music, I thought the muse was always a mirror of our purest nature. And somewhere within the purest distillation of ourselves: we all want to bone.
For some time now, I’ve been troubled by the omnipresence of what I deem “neutered rock.” This is rock without brio, without bravado, without scuzzy, unbridled lust dripping out of every chord, every note, every wail, without giant, sweaty cahones. And one does not need to be male to be equipped with said cahones! To rock without emanating sexual desire, without addressing the ineluctable need for late-night action, or performing as if you are a eunech that has transcended earthly desires for a bounty of cerebral delights is to not rock at all. In fact, I would say that to do so is to be the antithesis of rock. Rock without sex is a desecration of its very essence.
And yet, there seems to be a preference to ignore the corporeal inherent in music as if its tacky presence would dumb the audience down, defiling its tastes, and rendering it impossible for ascension to more lofty heights where Art and Truth can be discovered. Cartesian dualism does a great disservice to the enjoyment of rock-n-roll as I’ve been under the, perhaps, false impression that rock music unifies mind and body in a way that the two become happily conflated. In my understanding, rock is visceral, rock is intellectual, rock is primal, immediate, and enlightening. Rock targets the loins, but still hits the heart.
Of course, this might just be a personal preference. Some of my favorite bands include The Stooges, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Scissor Sisters, and of Montreal. While diverse in sound and style, all musicians mentioned share a brazen approach to individual, as well as collective, libidinal pursuits. They unapologetically explore human sexuality in its myriad of forms and aim to seduce their audience in joining them on a blue escapade of sight and sound. I like my music—no, I require my music—to come-on to me. It is imperative that a band makes me feel sexually viable, undoubtedly present, and sometimes even a bit violated. I want the frontman to share his rawest, crudest, most honest reflections on what turns him/her on and why. I want to hear Iggy’s animalistic growls as he writhes around in a dangerous fevered state , witness Robert Plant thrusting his denim-clad groin, see Diamond Dave lick his lips in an X-rated manner while proclaiming that “Everybody wants some/I want some too!” I revel in Jake Shear’s orgiastic glee as he delivers euphemisms about anal sex that don’t really qualify as euphemisms because they are so incredibly explicit. And when Kevin Barnes croons that I “look like a playground” to him, I take it as the creepiest and most sincere pick-up line I’ve ever heard.
Maybe I am reading too much into the Pitchfork review that started me on this whole tangent. Maybe the reviewer didn’t find much to his liking apart from the “tarted-up” themes that pique Barnes’ interests. Maybe there isn’t really this underlying fear of sex. But when I attempt to form a list of current rock bands that are overtly sexual in content, image and/or performance and that garner critical attention and mass appeal, my minds goes blank.
Where did all the sex go? I want music to get laid again.
This weekend I will:
Return to the lush, verdant, oceanview paradise of my childhood…
and realize that nostalgia has a funny way of omitting the parts of a place that are less than desirable such as…
Realizing that when I overly romanticize this particular location, I blind myself to its depressive attributes and come off like a willfully ignorant fool, I will then drink an excessive amount of Rum Runners and anything else with a synthetic taste of beachy hedonism…
and subsequently engage in sundry forms of profligacy included but not limited to:
The consumption of dozen upon dozen of raw oysters
Downing shots with strangers—the majority being married couples who are into “swinging” in tandem with painkillers
While at a tacky tiki bar, I will dance to a bad cover band’s version of Collective Soul’s “Shine”, or if the drinks are particular strong, Train’s ”Soul Sister”
With a middle-aged man in a Tommy Bahama button-down and a pair of dad Jorts
I will also:
Wear the bathing suit equivalent of David Lee Roth leggings…
while I coast on a pontoon boat with nine of my closest friends…
and listen to CSN’s “Southern Cross” repeatedly until…
someone threatens to throw me overboard and quickly changes it to either our college anthem, “Freedom ‘90”, a Cash Money rap artist, or the acceptable default of Guns-n-Roses
Finally I will:
Enter a biker bar and find the most grizzled, fearsome-looking brother in the room. Requirements: a gumball-shaped gut, a handlebar moustache the color of soiled Maltese fur, and a strident laugh that rattles like an old motor. I will then ask if I can take a ride on the back of his Harley…
I will then ride off into the sunset unconcerned about anything that might transpire after this weekend…
including the fact that I will turn 30 in a matter of weeks.