Articles tagged with Grouper

Animal Collective @ the Commodore Ballroom, 5/25/09

The last time I saw Animal Collective, it was on the Feels tour, and the group looked almost like a regular rock band: Deakin rocked out on guitar, Panda Bear provided thundering tribal percussion, and sort-of-frontman Avey Tare spazzed out like he was on catnip. And the burly, bearded Geologist looked like a bass player, even if he actually served the role of sampler from behind a synth deck.

But the 2009 incarnation of the Baltimore experimental outfit looked like a slightly more animated version of Kraftwerk, its members spending almost the entire show hunched over tables piled high with synthesizers and looping machines. Now reduced to a trio (Deakin is sitting out this album and tour), the group had scarcely any live instrumentation, with Avey, Panda and Geologist acting primarily as button-pushers and knob-twiddlers. To compensate for the lack of action onstage, the show featured a flashy, psychedelic light show, with swirling colours projected onto a huge white beach ball hanging above the stage.

Ironically, by eschewing traditional rock instrumentation, Animal Collective’s sound has become more palatable than ever. Like this year’s (comparatively) pop-friendly Merriweather Post Pavilion, the performance emphasized the group’s Beach Boys-style harmonies and incessantly catchy melodies. “Summertime Clothes” got the crowd bouncing early with its buzzy synth loop and relentless four-on-the-floor beat. A few songs later, “My Girls” provoked such an enthusiastic singalong that the audience nearly drowned out the band during the choruses. Best of all was the pulsing techno of “Brother Sport,” which featured percussive shrieks and reverb-soaked chanting from Avey Tare and Panda Bear.

The show was dominated by Merriweather tracks, but the band also included reworked versions of a few older gems, including “Lablakely Dress,” the set-ending “Slippi,” and a dense electro version of “Who Could Win a Rabbit” that was almost unrecognizable as the same song that appeared on 2004’s Sung Tongs. “Fireworks” was one of the only songs of the night to feature live guitar and drums, its pounding middle section stretched out into an epic jam. Despite being reduced to ¾ of its usual lineup, Animal Collective’s live show was better than ever, balancing boundary-pushing experimentalism with tight musicianship that emphasized the group’s ever-increasing songwriting prowess.

The show was opened by Grouper, a waifish singer-songwriter armed with only her guitar and an array of effects and loop pedals. Her set was dreamy and atmospheric, overlaying haunting ballads with ambient swirls of heavily manipulated guitar sound. It was pleasant performance, but the highlight came near to the end, when a guy standing near me affected a booming British accent and yelled “You’ve satisfied us! Indeed!” I’m not sure if he was expressing genuine appreciation or requesting that she get off the stage, but it was brilliant either way.
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