Over the weekend Animal Collective brought loud psychedelic jams to Portland’s historic Wonder Ballroom. The opening act Miachu and the Shapes are fresh off the release of the acclaimed new album Never. Unfortunately, they were not as impressive on stage as they are on album. Songs like “Easy” are carried by sporadic guitar chopping while the blanks are filled with an undercurrent of distortion. In between songs they pleased the audience with pleasant British banter, daring the crowd into a contest of who could make more noise; the drinkers or the non-drinkers. They were cutely energetic and their closer “Nowhere” really got the crowd moving. Suffice it to say, their unique mash-up of rough guitars and sporadic reverb works better on record.
Animal Collective’s stage set up was similar to their new album Centipede Hz’s eerie album cover. Massive red lips with jagged teeth surrounded the stage with a backdrop of mixed lighting and electricity. All four members of the band are touring right now: Panda Bear was in the back on the drum kit, Geologist on the left with a headlamp strapped to his head, Avey Tare on the front left juggling guitar, vocals, and a mixing board, while Deakin, who hasn’t toured with the band since 2007, rocked the guitar. Psychedelic lighting, twisting colors of purple and blue for the slower songs, and harsh reds and yellows for the more energetic ones surrounded the band. The lighting got really trippy when it illuminated the portraits on the wall of the Ballroom making the characters come alive.
Animal Collective plays mostly new material while touring. They aren’t a band to cater to old fans; if you want to recognize the songs they’re playing you have to be up on their most recent albums. This might be tough on people hoping to hear songs from their most popular album, Merriweather Post Pavilion.
They opened with Merriweather’s “Also Frightened” which the crowd loved singing along to but after that most of the set was from Centipede Hz. The crowd went absolutely nuts when Avey Tare broke into their lead single “Today’s Supernatural” by dancing and jumping around. They followed “Today’s Supernatural” with the pre-album single “Honeycomb” which got a highly anticipated dance-y reaction and a sing-off between Avey Tare and Panda Bear. After those two singles they cooled down a bit and played Centipede’s more peaceful songs, like “Pulleys” and “New Town Burnout,” which echoed and drifted through streams of space-jam of atmospheric electronica.
The finale of their set ended with a blast off of non-stop dancing. They dug into Merriweather closer “Brother Sport” which had the whole crowd echoing the opposite parts Avey was singing. After that they played a heavy version of the Strawberry Jam hit “Peacebone” which features Tare freaking out at the end and let’s just say the crowd freaked out with him.
For their encore they played the little known “Cobwebs” from the Water Curses EP followed by “My Girls,” which saw many people run down from the balcony onto the floor to get some quick dance moves in for the popular single. They closed with the final song from Centipede, “Amanita.” The show was a foot stomping psychedelic master-fest. Everyone on the floor was dancing and singing when they weren’t simply entranced by the cool weirdness.