Animal Collective. Photo: Abita Photo
It was a cold, cloudy day in February when I first heard the news about Animal Collective cancelling their show. “Sore throat my ass,” I thought as I crossed my arms and furrowed my brows. “Drink some tea already and get over it, Avey!” I was highly anticipating seeing the group again, especially as their new album, Centipede Hz, is a hellofa fun album to jam along to, and their live show was looking bomb from what I saw from postings online of their crazy, giant mouth set up, with psychedelic lights vivid on the teeth. From the looks of it, they had taken their album cover and brought it to life. I was about to lose hope, until the group finally announced the new tour date in September, and guess what? The wait was worth it. As bitter of a bitch as I was about the original cancellation, I am happy that lead singer Dan Portner (aka Avey Tare) was in good health this time around, as his vocal chords traveled in monstrous directions that would’ve been nearly impossible to perform had he sung with even the slightest bit of a scratch to his throat.
Before the group got on stage, I was oogling at each member’s set up, and it hit me how intricate their mixing is. This is not a band that merely has a member on a single instrument—everyone was fully stocked with their own Moog synthesizers, soundboards, samplers and drum kits to jam with. It was a little mind-blowing to see that intricacy in a live setting, as the layers of each song became crystal clear in their chaos. Each member seemed to be in their own self-created universe behind their set up, and even during moments where it seemed like a huge muddle of fucked-up sounds, they’d pull it together into a bouncy melody that got the crowd hooked. And that, my friends, is the beauty of Animal Collective: they somehow create order out of disorder, and play it in a method that feels tribal with the loss of self in a Dionysian way.
Starting out with the lead single from their album, “Today’s Supernatural,” followed a set that predictably included a majority of songs from their new album. I was happy to see them skillfully transition from song to song, mixing up the set-list with songs from their older works, including “Lion in a Coma” from Merriweather Post Pavilion taking the second spot on the list. The roles of the band are pretty evenly spread out: Brian Weitz (aka Geologist) kept the sound samples grooving, Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) and Josh Dibb (aka Deakin) kept the rhythm funky and fresh, while Avey Tare was able to synthesize and vocalize. The members created a U-shape on stage, making a lot of space in front that was predominantly unused except for during “Monkey Riches,” when Panda Bear danced around in his laboratory getup while strumming the guitar, a welcome change to see him exposed from behind his equipment.
Typical of the group, the songs never really end so much as wind down into ambient loops until a new beat is established, which then leads into the next song. With this, there wasn’t too much room to banter in between songs, but the one break they did have, Avey talked about the last time they came to Salt Lake in 2007. I remember being there for that show at Club Sound, and I remember vividly the disappointment of not hearing them play “Purple Bottle.” Being the obnoxious brat that I am, I called that out to them. Whether or not they heard my request, I’ll never know (they showed no signs of acknowledgement), but I cried a little happy tear when they finally played that, in addition to “Fireworks,” AND “What Would I Want? Sky.” There’s not too much more that I could ask from the group, and the crowd was ecstatically dancing along to the beats. I’m immensely grateful that the group didn’t decide to ditch out on Salt Lake with their rescheduling, as their performance was truly a magical experience.
Check out my interview with Geologist here.