Downtown Boston swam in a pool of cascading neons that intercepted sound and light Monday night. The Theatre District’s Royale opened up its gilded balcony and shining floors to Baltimore-bred boys Animal Collective, and the evening’s sold-out event hung by an illustrious thread bonded by the unwavering, unflinching fans in the audience.
To step inside of an Animal Collective show is to be transported into and through time itself. A wormhole opens up, and there I fall, through the warping tunnel of sounds. Elements of string theory finds its way into other dimensions where unconventional motifs, terrifying yet voyeuristic feats turn this world upside down. Where is the ground?
Standing in the back I watched in childlike wonder as Panda Bear, The Geologist, Deakin, and Avey Tare assumed their rightful spots on stage. A colossal set up of synthesizers and drum kits and humanoid figures beckoned larger-than-life illusions: Or perhaps just that of This is Spinal Tap.
The group opened up with the track “Lying in the Grass” off of their February 19 release Painting With. Eclectic, nearly glitchy plays on synthesizers parodied liquified balls bouncing off all of the walls. As Avey Tare (Michael Portner) sang into his microphone the words, “pick a place around the table talk/make a push to wake the comatose,” the crowd seemed to part like the all too obvious Red Sea. I saw this as a sign. I took this as a calling. I made the push. I grabbed my cohorts hand, and pulled us closer—leaning our bodies onto the silver gates that circumscribe the sound booth.
Renderings of songs “Summing the Wretch” and “Golden Gal,” from the new album followed next. Clean layering of percussion, vocals and electronically engineered sound waves developed seamlessly. Rich textures were made almost tangible by the symphonic coordination so effortlessly released.
As The Geologist’s (Brian Weitz) trademark headlamp acted in part to light up the complicated arrangement of mixers and loopers and effects modules on stage, so too did the beam of the light gingerly float over the crowd like a UFO spotted hovering way up in the sky. It effected a kind of guide, moving to the beat of the music at hand. For Animal Collective’s burgeoning sound leads its listeners into dark, unknowing places. Paying homage to Brian Wilson’s ingenious “Pet Sounds,” unconventional uses of sound translate into Alice’s journey into the Black Forest where mysterious eyes follow her into what is quite possibly the unknown. But in this case The Geologist throws his audience a life raft via the luminary head ware, and we drift down these audiovisual grottos in both awe and terror following the light.
While the rest of the group stayed rooted behind their podiums of electronic apparatus like the wizard in Oz, Deakin (Joshua Dibb) ceremoniously banged away on his drum kit. During the unraveling of “Flori Da Da,” the latest single, Deakin’s arms flew up in long exaggerated movements that hinted at Japanese Taiko, but ultimately lent itself to a totemic vision of ancient, animalistic ritual. The energy pouring off of Deakin managed to break up the monotony of his fellow bandmates stationary placement.
However the evenings festivities relied not only on the auditory, but also the meticulous use of projections and stage design. I hooked my feet into the bottom of the silver barrier I had previously been leaning on, and raised myself up looking out and up into it all. I turned my head to find a thick funnel of orangey light transmitted from a projector and onto the back drop of Animal Collective’s platform. Abstract uses of colors alternated amongst varying hues of reds and blues and greens. Shapes came together and formed flowers that looked cut from paper and moved in stop motion, adding an extra air of the whimsical. Simple, flat designs hung from the ceiling like deconstructed segments of Alexander Calder’s mobiles.
Minimalist framework, thick black lines, and sumptuous colors combined leaving the crowd transfixed—their heads slightly nodding, their bodies still—a visual masterpiece. Sights and sound culminate leaving us all in desperate search of another planet, another land where Animal Collective curate the chaotic mysticism of what lies beneath.