by Adrian Gandara
I’ve never thought of Animal Collective as a “rock” band.
I saw them on tour for Centipede Hz at the House of Blues in Dallas: the cavernous auditorium was filled with that quintessential AC sound — primal rhythms put together with noisy electronic machinery and strange and childish vocal melodies. A monstrous mouth-shaped installation framed the group.
Also in Dallas, I saw Panda Bear touring “Tomboy” at the (also cavernous) Granada Theater. Noah Lennox stood behind a microphone and what was probably a disorienting layout of synthesizers and other machines. Nearby was “Tomboy” producer and experimental musician Sonic Boom helping with the wall of noise.
So I’ve never thought of AC’s music as remotely “rock,” and thus I was completely surprised (in a good (very good) way) by Avey Tare’s set on 4/20 (blaze it!) at Antone’s. The instrumentation was bizarrely… ordinary. Guitar, bass, a stripped-down drum kit. Some pedals, synths and other electronics were hanging around. From the ordinary, David Portner (Avey Tare) and fellow AC member Josh Dibb (Deakin, who joined Portner on stage and swapped guitar and bass duties with him) crafted unordinary psychedelic sounds.
It wasn’t just the instruments stripped down. The small venue and its atmosphere were a far cry from the grandiose big-stage concerts of AC and PB. Portner and Dibb set up their own equipment and unceremoniously tuned their instruments; opener Paradot had just packed up their compact synth suitcases, surge protectors and extension cords off the cheap stage carpet.
“Josh, I love you! Thank you for all you do in this beautiful world,” someone yelled. A few feet away, Deakin smiled and nodded.
I came in expecting the classic growls and snarls and screams I’m used to from Portner’s work in AC. (He’s shied away from that, I was told by local musician and superfan subcommander catching the show next to me, since a bad case of strep throat a few years ago.) Instead I heard Portner whisper-sing “I love 420” and repeat it over a trance-inducing looping rhythm. Big puffs of weed burst into the air like pyrotechnics.
The simple, repeated and drawn out rhythms and melodies, the hippie-like dancing, stomping and heads twirling — it all felt like I was in some psychedelic Grateful Dead show for modern indieheads (not to mention Avey Tare’s vocals, when straightforward without effects, bear a more-than-passing similarity to Jerry Garcia’s).
No encore. Avey Tare went on at 10:05 p.m. and finished 90 minutes later around 11:30 p.m.
Still thinking about my Grateful Dead feels, I said to subcommander I wouldn’t have minded a few more hours of that. Judging by everyone lingering around for the slim chance of that encore, I don’t think anyone could have disagreed.