by The Spin
If you thought the cold, wet weather coupled with Sunday night’s show being rescheduled (for a second time) might dampen the enthusiasm for Animal Collective’s set, The Spin is happy to report that you’d be wrong. Local AC fans, who have waited literally all year for this show, were out in full force with broad grins and all manner of colorful garb. For their part, the quartet repaid the crowd’s patience in full with a sound-and-light spectacle that felt more like a religious ceremony than a concert. Among a generation of indie fans accustomed to shows in basements and tiny clubs, a concert at the 1,500-capacity Marathon Music Works is the equivalent of an arena date; with over a decade of experience brought to bear, few were surprised when the group nailed it.
We shuffled through a healthy security line just as bEEdEEgEE, better known as Gang Gang Dance’s Brian DeGraw, wrapped his set. Seeing DeGraw situated center stage inside a pop-up shelter with mosquito netting took us back to Bonnaroo for a minute, but the electro-soul groove underneath the noise cloud emanating from his sampler sanctuary had a futuristic flavor. It wasn’t quite as esoteric as the abrasive, freak-folky SSAB Songs project (DeGraw’s pre-GGD collaboration with local auteur Harmony Korine), but we’ll give the guy credit for knowing when to trade in a little concept for dance-floor compatibility. With his final fadeout over, DeGraw pulled up stakes swiftly and disappeared into the ether.
Just after 9 p.m., a slew of projectors kicked on, painting a warped cartoon landscape across an array of what looked like giant pizza delivery bags arranged as teeth, which periodically lit up. Through the magic of digital sequencers, a collage of drones and voices bubbled from the speakers as Animal Collective played themselves to the desk, and we were off on a tour through the past five years of their catalog, starting with the elegantly stitched, percussion-heavy “Applesauce.” Cuts from Merriweather Post Pavilion, their biggest critical and commercial success to date, merged with the somewhat more glitchy numbers from last year’s Centipede Hz, sprinkled with single and EP tracks of the same vintage.
Since the days of Sung Tongs, Animal Collective’s output has been dominated by sample manipulation and other swooning electronic sounds, but they continue to demonstrate their great achievement: making all of this machine-created hoopla feel organic. Influences from the some of the world’s oldest musical traditions, including those from India, Africa and the Middle East, poke through the dense layers of electronic composition as the band bends and stretches sounds like so much aural taffy. It works well enough on record, but in the middle of a big crowd, bombarded by layers of psychedelic video, surrounded by dready kids, budding Burners and the inevitable beatific bro being escorted out by security, the experience takes on a dimension that just doesn’t come through ear buds.
As the set progressed, it became clear that waiting for Avey Tare’s strep throat to clear up was the right move, even if it delayed this show by nine months. The Collective delivered on the promise of a physical event, as the headlamp-bedecked Geologist told the Scene’s Adam Gold back in March; all four of the core members bounced around like the stage was lined with trampolines for two solid hours. The encore-closer “Purple Bottle,” a throwback to 2005’s Feels, updated with muted percussion and a trance-inducing keyboard line, also showed Tare in fine voice, shouting his lungs out on the great barbaric yawps that punctuate the song.
Previous AC shows have given us a peek into their future; while this show was retrospective, it showed us that they’re not burning out anytime soon, and reminded us that they’re just as good at entertaining as innovating. Besides, a little mystery about what will happen next never hurt anyone.