With a tour highlighting the recently released Time Skiffs record, Animal Collective seized the opportunity to bring the playful collage-esque themes of the record to life. There’s always been a level of sincerity and child-like wonder in the quartet’s output that’s sorely missed in the majority of music released by their contemporaries and it’s exactly what keeps AnCo fresh. Album after album they’ve managed to effectively bridge disorienting experimentation with pop-comfort; a feat that honestly astounds me when I consider how accessible and widely known they’ve been over the span of their career.
Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin, and Geologist have each grown so much in their craft and it’s a blast hearing some of my favorites from Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion live again. The pure joy exuded by everyone on stage truly is infectious and a quick glance at the audience revealed nothing but the smiling faces of an adoring crowd. Avey’s shifting vocal style hits a perfect mark between catchy melody and abrasive frenzy while Panda Bear and Deakin’s vocal leads consistently shift perspective and tone at the perfect moment.
Implied by the title of the new album, the idea of drifting across a lake covered in a dense temporal fog is something that perfectly captures the existential melancholy subtly permeating everything they’ve ever released. Even when the music feels like the wildest saccharine rush there’s a ticking reminder the carnival ride eventually ends – but in that lies the strength of their songwriting and the unique blend of emotions they command from the audience.
Visually, the simple yet oh-so-effective use of targeted projections on colorful hanging panels served as a perfect backdrop for AnCo’s mesmerizing performance – complimentary to he music and inventive as hell but never distracting or pretentious. The Greek really is a perfect venue for this (and May might just be the best time for anything in LA weather.) Everything comprising the evening was an extremely comfortable, high-fidelity microcosm of the very best pleasures of festivals like Desert Daze. Faint droplets of rain and a cool breeze flowing through Griffith Park fused with the intoxicating scent of blooming star jasmine to give the performance an unparalleled sensory edge. The contemplative, wandering tone of Time Skiffs was a perfect, final puzzle piece unifying the minutiae of the evening as live renditions of tracks such as We Go Back, Prester John, and Strung With Everything cast a soothing spell over everyone in attendance. The rich musicality of the new tracks left me wanting more by the end of the show and I have to admit I really wish Royal and Desire was included in the setlist as it would’ve been a fantastic closer for the evening and a perfect fit for the entire experience.
I’ve learned it’s impossible to see the same tour from AnCo twice and it’s both a blessing and a curse. Each time I catch them on an album cycle it reshapes how I view the band and how I perceive a lot of their music – be it through the energy of the moment or the instrumentation and arrangements that seem to slightly shift and wobble just out of my frame of expectation. The music itself seems to have a life of its own and I absolutely love it. If only I could find a time skiff myself to row back to all the shows I’ve missed.
Words and Photos by: Dillon Vaughn