Man Man / Xenia Rubinos Cabaret Du Mile-End, Montreal QC, October 20

Man Man / Xenia Rubinos Cabaret Du Mile-End, Montreal QC, October 20
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Brooklyn songstress Xenia Rubinos pulled out all the stops for her inaugural Montreal performance, crafting a memorable set thanks to her inescapable, mesmerizing stage presence. Her powerful, soul-laden voice was a force to be reckoned with, but her dance moves and penchant for imitating the sound of the synth with her mouth created a whimsical, dance-y vibe. The songs, most of which came from her debut release EP Magic Trix, occasionally featured Rubinos singing in Spanish and came off as a math-y, soul-infused Tune-Yards. Rubinos was joined by drummer Marco Buccelli, who managed to aggressively pound the kit while retaining a remarkable level of control, and provided a flexible backbeat that added to the intriguing vibe. Rubinos was a great opener, and will surely receive more buzz as her career continues ever onward.

Philadelphia experimental rockers Man Man divided their fan base over their slow but steady change in sound, eschewing the unrestrained frenzy of their first EPs for a more restrained, polished sound on recent releases. The five-piece, led by eccentric Tom Waits sound-alike Ryan "Honus Honus" Kattner and drummer Christopher "Pow Pow" Powell, played a lengthy set that definitely pleased fans of both sides, giving ample attention to their earlier albums while promoting the songs from newly released fifth LP, On Oni Pond. The dichotomy between their earlier and newer material was reflected in the crowd reaction: "Pink Wonton" from On Oni Pond got the audience bopping to tight grooves, but the crowd absolutely exploded during "Zebra," the sole representative from the band's first LP, Man in a Blue Turban with a Face.

Even at its most eclectic and raucous, the sound was still coherent and tuneful. The jazzy horns of Bryan "Shono" Murphy and Adam "Brown Sugar" Schatz provided excellent accents throughout the set, and Jamey "T. Moth" Robinson provided fun backup vocals, often in falsetto, behind the glowing monkey head affixed to his keyboard. Honus was a spectacular frontman, running and jumping throughout the set while rifling through a seemingly never-ending supply of costumes, including funky jackets and a glowing alien mask. He occasionally gave spotlights to crowd members to shine on him, but that wasn't necessary; the audience was transfixed on his spastic energy regardless.

The band kept their set fun and fresh, never dwelling too much on any part of their discography, both chronologically and sonically. Stomping bruiser "Loot My Body," orchestral pop number "Hold On" and main set closer "Born Tight," all from On Oni Pond mixed well with older tracks "Mister Jung Stuffed" and "Push the Eagle's Stomach," despite the vast ground and contrast in weirdness.

After a fantastic set, the band came out for a lengthy and diverse encore. Honus took the stage alone for the sombre ukulele ballad "Deep Cover," then the full band came back for five more tunes. The set ended with two songs from 2006 opus Six Demon Bag to make sure the audience left sweat-soaked and exhausted. Closers "Engrish Bwudd" and "Young Einstein on the Beach" found the band at their loudest and brashest, and the audience followed suit.

Man Man's new material may be a departure from their original sound, but their set proved that they can handle all sides of their back catalogue with natural finesse. Despite the sonic change on their records, the band is as wild, carefree, and boisterous as ever.