Oneohtrix Point Never (+ Puppet) Create Magic at Theatre Fairmount

Brooklyn-based experimental producer and composer Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin) returned to Montreal for the first time since 2018 this past Monday, finishing off the tour of his 2023 record Again with a sold-out show at Theatre Fairmount. 

Even if you have never sat down to listen to an OPN record, you’ve almost definitely heard him. With fingerprints on the tracks by FKA Twigs, Soccer Mommy, Moses Sumney, Caroline Polachek, and more, and soundtrack work on The Bling Ring, as well as being the Safdie brothers go-to artist for scores, as seen in Good Times, Uncut Gems, and most recently Benny Safdie’s The Curse, Lopatin’s sound is somewhat of a secret sauce running through many critic-favourite pop records of the last ten years. OPN’s most notable collaborative relationship is likely that with The Weeknd. Lopatin worked as musical director for The Weeknd’s 2021 Superbowl Halftime Show and co-produced mega-hit albums After Hours and Dawn FM. Dawn FM is where the two artists' collaborative chemistry reached a fever pitch. Though wildly different in genre, Dawn FM and OPN’s Magic Onoehtrix Point Never (released two years earlier in 2020) contain the same sonic theme of vintage radio stations lost in time. 

On Magic Onoehtrix Point Never, as with his other releases, Lopatin has a fascination with outdated gadgets, vintage media, and found sounds, that weave seamlessly into his high-tech production, but never get to the point of feeling sentimental or nostalgic. Down to his name Oneohtrix (one-oh-tricks) Point Never, based on a mishearing of Massachusetts’ Magic 106.7 radio station he remembers from his youth, OPN blends elements of whimsy with harder industrial sounds.

OPN’s most recent album, Again, employs extensive use of strings, from simple guitar plucking to blooming string sections, layered with synths to create an immersive and surreal soundscape.  

Opening the show was OPN collaborators Pedagogy, comprised of Eli Keszler and Nate Boyce. Keszler was on drums, with Boyce on guitar, both instruments blending into one another through heavy augmentation and distortion. The two were shielded by fog and light through their entire set, giving the performance a mysterious, eerie feeling. 

Moving into Oneohtrix’s set, the density of Fairmount became apparent, as every spot of this shallow but wide venue packed in. A few minutes after 9:00 PM, Lopatin entered the stage with visual collaborator Freeka Tet.

Lopatin manned his large DJ controller set up, with his board connected to a distorted mic. Tet was over on the right side of the stage, standing by a small cube. Upon a closer look, there appeared to be a small puppet inside the cube– a miniature version of Lopatin, with his own miniature lights, miniature table, and miniature DJ controller. Through the show, Tet would maneuver the puppet, having him mirror Lopatin’s movements, mixing on his tiny stage, and the puppet’s actions would be broadcast on the screen behind the real Lopatin. At one point, Tet even had his hands inside the puppet box, playing a miniature guitar. The puppet was a funny addition to otherwise quite serious music, but still rather impressive in its own right, as Freeka Tet constructed the entire technical apparatus, live-controlling the figure with just his foot

Oneohtrix Point Never’s show oscillated between moments of deep serenity, with the audience swaying in a trance-like state, and moments of high intensity, with harsh noise and strobe effects. OPN’s stage visuals were a dizzying assortment of vintage Disney clips, videogame characters, and floating metallic shapes, all perfectly complimenting the atmosphere of the music.

Mid-way through the show, Lopatin finally spoke to the crowd, thanking the city for coming out to the last show of his tour, and thanking Freeka Tet and the sound engineers in the back. Despite his mystique– from his eccentric taste to dating history that has Redditors obsessed, Lopatin’s stage banter was generous and personable, even shouting out Canadian composer and his collaborator on the album Instrumental Tourist, Tim Hecker, who he mentioned was backstage. 

Several times during the show, Lopatin would duck down to play something behind his DJ controller. Despite not having the best view over the crowd (The Oneohtrix show, a bit of a sausage fest? Shocker), one instrument that was visible was a Daxophone– an experimental German stringed instrument played often with a bass bow. The live use of the Daxophone added an extra depth to the layered strings running through Again

After leaving and returning for an encore, Lopatin asked the audience which song they preferred to end the night on - “Animals” or “Chrome Country,” a move that highlighted the calmness and ease of his stage presence. Altogether, the show was both high-production and approachable, a delicate balance only an artist on the level of Oneohtrix Point Never can strike. 


Photo by @buscar_photo

Aviva Majerczyk is the magazine editor at CJLO 1690AM. She is also the host of The Alley, a folk-rock show airing Fridays at 11:00 AM.