Animal Collective returned to Virginia, this time to the more intimate Jefferson Theatre, and the energy of one of my most beloved bands seemed limitless before the night ended.
When opening act Circuit Des Yeux started her set, the theatre was only about halfway full; by the time her performance was over, the entire building was packed with fans.
The combination of her unique singing voice and forceful style in which she played her twelve string guitar played a huge role in getting the crowd ready for the wild performance they were about to see. Even with the help of a few pedals, Circuit Des Yeux had an uncanny ability to make her single instrument sound like an entire symphony of guitars at some points during her performance.
She ended her set by playing a rendition of Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of my Labor” that absolutely blew me away. Getting to hear her incredible music for the first time was the most unexpected highlight of the night.
The entire room erupted when Baltimore’s most famous noise-rock sons, Animal Collective, took the stage. They kicked off the show with “Peacemaker”- a song from their new EP The Painters, but quickly transitioned to some of their more familiar material from albums like Sung Tongs and Merriweather Post Pavilion.
When listening to studio versions of Animal Collective’s discography, it’s hard to contemplate how they could play live; picturing how they would transition from the copious amounts of synths and reverb from their more recent albums to the almost mathematically harmonic and acoustic work from earlier albums is even more difficult.
These guys are complete professionals though. Each song blended almost seamlessly with the next. The band compiled songs from every corner of their career without changing the pace or vibe of the show. They ended up playing a version of “Taste” that sounded even more amazing than the version included on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Their concert was a perfect culmination of all the great music they’ve made over the years.
Avey Tare’s voice can do some crazy stuff. His vocal abilities stretch beyond the normal concept of range. He can echo beautiful harmonies back and forth with Panda Bear in songs like “Summing The Wretch.” At other times he lets out some noises that most people wouldn’t be able to find on a traditional music scale. He takes “using the voice as an instrument” to a completely new dimension.
The stage was almost a show unto itself as well. Looming behind all the performers were ten-foot-tall cubist sculptures that looked like Picasso’s interpretation of Russian Nesting dolls. Hanging from the ceiling were surrealist sculptures of an assortment of items like scissors, top hats, and eye balls.
All of these things combined together made the perfect background for the constantly changing projections that ranged from figures with hints of Basquiat to beautiful warps of color.
Bands as creative and popular as Animal Collective are desperately needed in an age where Disney Channel stars can routinely top the charts. As somebody who’s been a fan of Animal Collective since my early teenage years, the show they put on was greater than I could’ve imagined. Coming into this concert, I had no idea what to expect from either band- but when it was over, I was filled with a new sense of hope for the future of music.
Photos by Branden Wilson