Animal Collective has proven themselves time and time again to be one of the most important indie bands of the 21st Century.
Since Y2K, the group has released album after album of mind-bending experimental rock and pop music with a fierce electronic edge and magnetic melodies. Now, after six years, the group has released their latest studio album, Time Skiffs, with all four key members. And much to the delight of their army of fans, the group hit the road to support it.
I was lucky enough to catch the influential group take the stage at Marathon Music Works in Nashville on March 24th.
The show opened with L’Rain, an experimental indie artist who has been making waves in the underground music scene. Her set was marked with moments of ethereal bliss juxtaposed to harsh distortion and primal screams. A performance that was the perfect opener for Animal Collective to follow up.
Before Animal Collective’s set, each member came on stage one at a time to set up their equipment just how they like it. First was Deakin tinkering with his keyboard and synth sounds. Later, Geologist made sure his patchwork and strange electronic instruments were all in working order. Avey Tare then walked on stage to tune his guitars and make sure his pedals were dialed in. Lastly was Panda Bear, who made sure his kit was ready to drive this sonic experience.
Before long, the band blasted into their opening song, which happens to be the first song on their newest album, Time Skiffs, titled “Dragon Slayer.”
The beautiful synths and lush harmonies instantly whipped the eager crowd into a frenzy. A giant projector also added to the mood, with red and blue images of dragons and wizards dancing behind them as they played. The show had an incredible pace with each song seamlessly bleeding into the next. This was not their first rodeo.
At one point, Avey Tare started playing a gentle, laid back guitar riff that transitioned into one of their most popular songs, “In the Flowers” off of arguably their most influential album, Meriweather Post Pavilion. The building synths towards the middle section of the song got everyone in the audience jumping up and down, and before long, the psychedelia had taken over. Their last song of the set was “Applesauce” from their experimental record, Centipede Hz. The themes of a lost childhood along with the strange electronic sounds the group is known for brought a palpable feeling of electricity in the room.
After a rousing and extremely visceral showing, the group disappeared from the stage, and the crowd did what crowds do: holler to get their asses back on stage.
Like clockwork, back they came, tuning their instruments while giving a speech about how COVID affected the release of their new album. “The last few years have been crazy,” Deakin stated. “It’s been beautiful writing music together.” After Geologist tuned his Hurdy Gurdy, they started playing the unreleased song, “Sea of Light.” The mix of dreamy bliss with blood pumping upbeat sections showed off their knack for jamming perfectly.
Soon after, Panda Bear held out a vocal note for what felt like forever, before firing into another fan favorite, “Chores.” The intense drum parts matched with Panda Bear’s Brian Wilson-esque singing immediately drove the crowd crazy. After this track concluded, Avey Tare played a guitar part lined with harsh skipping notes. The die-hard fans of the group knew exactly what song this was going to be, as the band leapt into the beloved, “For Reverend Green.” For me personally, this was a truly special moment, as this is my absolute favorite song by the group. Every person watching was singing along to the emotionally-pained song, even shouting the inhuman shrieks Avey Tare lets out during the chorus.
After that astounding finish, Avey Tare gave a quick thank you, and the band left the stage. After decades of pushing the envelope and carving out a path all their own, Animal Collective undoubtedly has a gift for not just creating deeply resonating music, but putting on one hell of a show.
Photos by Sam Spheeris