The legendary indie noise harmonious electronica rock band Animal Collective made a rare tour appearance at the Fox Theater in Oakland this past week to promote their latest album “Painting With“. The group, featuring Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist, have been making music with each other for years but came into popular acclaim after albums like Strawberry Jams and Merriweather Post Pavillion were released in the late 2000s. The group released their latest album last month after a three and a half years of anticipation. Songs like “Golden Girls” and “Floridada” off of “Painting With” quickly became favorites here at the station, so we were very excited to have the opportunity to be able to review a show of a long time favorite band of the station all the way back to “Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished” in 2000.
First off, there were very high expectations going into the show. The Fox Theater is one of the most beautiful venues in the bay area with gilded ceilings, sculpture adorning the front of the theater and a stage as wide and tall as the rest of the venue. Several artists when playing the Fox Theater will go all out with visual effects and instrumentation to complement the imagery of the fox theater and to really fill the stage of the artist’s presence. Animal Collective was no exception to this.
Before the set started that Monday night, the stage was visibly adorned with abstract paintings and cubist-style sculptures referencing the imagery of the band’s latest album. The art was very dimly lit up while waiting for Animal Collective to grace the stage and man their electronic battle stations. Lights were still being set up and projections were still being properly mapped to make sure all the lighting for the set would be up to snuff. Then, slowly, the crowd cheers Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist, approach their percussions, synths, and samplers to kick off the set.
Everybody was very casually dressed that night, one that struck me in particular was Panda Bear’s grey hoodie. The band were there to play music for the crowd, and they had no egos about it. Even in the very brief points where Avey Tare would talk to the crowd, he would always seem very shy and very thankful for where he was at that moment. This was not reflected in their fantastical light show though. The projections that synced with each song were projected onto a large painting that stretched the entire back wall of the stage as well as smaller projections mapped onto the paintings on the front of each member’s station. Lights directed at the audience, band, and sculptures strobed and flickered in fantastical color filled beams of light were a sight to behold.
One thing really got me was the lighting set up the band had set up for the song “Bees” from their 2005 album “Feels”. Although it was appropriate for the song, the projection was a very humorous projection of a group low-polygonal bees swarming around as Avey Tare singing “And if you need or if you need the bees, the bees, the bees, the bees…” as the crowd was jumping, crowd surfing, and wooing at the the different members of Animal Collective.
The one surprise of the night for me was the band’s set list. It was a very interesting mix of songs that were a combination of the most upbeat songs of “Painting With” along with some of the lesser-known songs that grace the band’s discography. The show was obviously a show for the fans that night which I greatly appreciate. The band was still artfully exploring their discography and avoiding the “Greatest hits” trap that many critically acclaimed bands will sometimes fall into. The music still felt fresh as well as the way it was presented. Songs would bleed in one into the other going back and forth from new music to maybe a song off of “Sung Tongs” or “Strawberry Jams”.
It was very much like a jazz concert gone mad that night as the songs would bleed together and once the band would play a recognizable riff or sing a known lyric, the crowd would clap and cheer as the song built up more and more until the song would slow down and bleed into the next song. As for the encore, the band ended the night with the lead single off of “Painting With”, “Floridada”. When the bwongs and back and forth vocal melodies started up, the crowd exploded into moshing, pogoing, crowd surfing all at once throughout the entire venue up to the seated section on the second floor. Nobody cared that they didn’t get to hear their favorite animal collective song or didn’t get to hear the band talk more, they were just glad to be there for such an visually and sonically exuberant concert performance. Thank you Animal Collective for such an amazing night and I hope to see another show like that again someday.
- Photography and Blog by Brandon Oleksy