ZOO STATION: Animal Collective, Electric Factory, 9:20 PM
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Back in college — which was longer ago than I care to admit, so let’s just say some time after the Earth cooled but before the Internet — I lived in an old Victorian house that the college owned and subdivided into separate apartments. It was a gathering house for all the freaks and geeks who didn’t quite blend in with the frat-boy-cheerleader-chug-a-lug-date-rape ethos of the main campus. Across the hall my neighbors had set up a de facto commune of 24/7 hacky-sack drum-circling and druggy bird-dogging. Most of the guys living there weren’t even enrolled. They all had sophomoric stoner-rific nicknames — Andy Crack, Stinker, Wild Bill, Bleep — and they all looked like they lived underwater. Almost nobody knew how to play an instrument, but these guys were gonna start a band. ‘Whatever you say, Hippie Pants,’ I thought to myself. They were gonna call themselves the Gooney Birds after the sheet of primo blotter they’d scored at a recent Dead show. While I went to classes, these guys woodshedded day and night, nourished only by an Evian bottle filled to the brim with liquid LSD. By the end of the semester the bottle was empty and these guys were making some of the most jaw-droppingly mesmerizing folk-based psych I’d ever heard. They sounded like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey looks. Fuck me, I thought. It’s like they mutated a couple steps up the food chain.
I can’t help but think something similar happened to the men of Animal Collective during their formative years. They’ve known each other since high school. They all have stoner-rific nicknames: Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist, Deakin. From the sound of things, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they too had a private stock of that Evian elixir when they first took up instruments. Seven albums into their career, Animal Collective have become a cause celebre among the freak-folk meritocracy, creating some of the most stunningly original and indescribably otherworldly music since, well, the acid hit the punk rock some time around the Meat Puppets‘ Up on the Sun and Husker Du’s Flip Your Wig. When it comes to pedigree, Animal Collective cover their paw tracks with six degrees of sonic separation, mutating sound over and over again until it sounds quite ordinary-if you live on Neptune. And they have two great tricks that can’t be easily dismissed: First, they somehow make music that continues to morph even when it’s set in stone on CD. (I’ve listened to Feels about 18 times, and I swear to God not one nanosecond of it ever sounds the same twice.) Second, their unwavering refusal to be serious is what makes them so profound.
[Illustration by ALEX FINE/photos by JONATHAN VALANIA]
UPDATE: Five Things You Need To Know About Animal Collective at the Electric Factory Last Night
1. Even though I was a little leery about the venue — and ticket prices for the Electric Factory show were noticeably higher than the last time they came through — wherever Animal Collective goes, so go I. The same cannot be said for AC member Deakin, who has decided to take this year off. Nice work if you can get it.
2. Let the record show that I narrowly avoided permanent blindness and eye-stabbing pain on several occasions thanks to the hyperactive 13-year-old punk rock girl with Sputnick hair pogoing just under my chin all night.
3. “Peacebone” was the first time I’d ever seen someone sing about dinosaurs while acting like one. To be honest, I am not sure whether or not they played anything off the Water Curses EP, scheduled for release on May 6, 2008.
4. This show was NOT for the back-row-arms-crossed-socially-acceptable-head-bob demographic of showgoers. Dancing was the prime directive. All obeyed.
5. It was Avey Tare’s birthday. We all sang happy birthday at the end. And it was good.
— COLLEEN REESE