During their return to Australia for Meredith Music Festival and a slew of sideshows, Animal Collective played two sold out gigs in Melbourne for indie music fans holding high expectations – one night at the Forum and this night across town at the Prince.
After a somewhat mediocre set at Meredith on the weekend, the crowd piled in mumbling comments and criticisms about what the night ahead would bring. But a more intimate setting with Animal Collective was just what the post-festival crowd needed.
A smooth sounding warm up set came from New Zealand solo artist Bachelorette, a.k.a Annabel Alpers, who joined the Animal Collective sideshows in support of her third album My Electric Family. Despite minor sound issues, Bachelorette wooed the crowd with her synth pop tunes, mixing keys, samples, electric guitar, tambourine, and handclaps using a multi-layered loop station. With a sort of shy onstage persona, Bachelorette’s harmonized vocal work and elegant keyboard playing were a perfect musical complement to the psychedelic computer monitors that flickered in the faces of the crowd. In my mind, this was a fine introduction to what was coming next…
The crowd thickened as Noah ‘Panda Bear’ Lennox, Dave ‘Avey Tare’ Portner, and Brian ‘Geologist’ Weitz placed themselves behind their three individual musical stations, as I’d like to call them. The entire set was an intense musical experience. With each member surrounded by a wall of instruments, it was truly hard to figure out where the sounds were coming from.
The Collective blasted right into Chocolate Girl off Spirit They’re Gone. As Panda Bear showcased his impressive vocal work, the headlamp-toting Geologist tinkered with laser sounds and piano melodies. With a dubby, calypso sort of feel, the trio played this track with much more vengeance and power than the album version, putting the crowd in an instant groove.
Another crowd-pleaser was brought in early in the set, Comfy in Nautica – Panda Bear’s solo anthem that reinforces the fact that coolness means having courage. Right from the start of this song, sensory overload took over as the majority of the audience seemed to be frozen in awe with the mesmerizing mental stimulation. The neon lights flashed with a sort of hypnotising glow, while the occasional hardcore fan twirled and flailed their arms around in attempt to dance along to the oddly timed beat. The intensity of it all made me want to move to the back of the room, but I was determined to stay up close as to not miss out on the masterminds’ skillful moves.
The lights flickered, the bass thundered, spastic drums filled the air, and various samples rang out in the distance. With any Animal Collective live show, songs were jammed out into extended versions, meddled with impressive drum solos from both Panda Bear and Avey Tare.
Melodic vocal looping then set the tone for Also Frightened, a track off the most recent release Merriweather Post Pavilion, their ninth studio album, which has gained rave reviews on indie music blogs around the world. But it was the album’s more pop friendly songs My Girls and Summertime Clothes that threw the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Through incoherent lyrics were lost in a wall of distorted sounds, the songs were brilliantly pieced together as if perfectly rehearsed. The interaction between band members was slim to none, but didn’t seem necessary as they performed each random note without flaw. Animal Collective has seriously created their own unique musical sound.
It was a final bow with Fireworks, a gurgling complex mastery of experimental pop sounds. As Panda Bear and Avey Tare again switched between drum solos, the room filled with white noise that grew louder and louder. A track that seems to be made up of two or maybe three different songs, Fireworks showcased the trio’s ability to blend pop, rock, dub, and electro-funk into one. It wasn’t until the band walked off the stage that I realized how truly enthralling their live show is. Wow, was all I could think…Wow!
The time to process it all was brief as the band came back out to end the night with some extra funky grooves. Tare’s soft and sweet In The Flowers told a sweet story of loneliness and love. The sounds of rain and thunder pitter-pattering from Geologists’ tinker box offered a somewhat consolation to Tare’s tale of sadness. Luckily, they chose to not leave the crowd in such a solemn mood. The beat picked up instantly with Brother Sport as the trio closed the night with the final track off Merriweather Post Pavilion. A song encompassed in Afro-influenced tribal drums and sporadic screams coming from Panda Bear, it was a true cap to the night’s master musicianship.
The boys of Animal Collective have spent the last ten years creating this unique sound of electro synth pop and layered vocal work, making a mark in musical history. With a stellar release like Merriweather Post Pavilion in the past year, some people are even going so far as to say it’s one of the greatest albums of the year. In my mind, it comes pretty damn close – and their live show is just as impressive. Did I already say ‘Wow’?!@3 years ago with 5 notes
#Faster Louder #Prince Bandroom #Animal Collective