Memorial Day is a holiday I neither plan for or care about—most every day for the past few years has been an amalgamation of work and play. I'm a New Media Asshole with a home office and I work when I want (that is, when I haven't mismanaged my time and a deadline starts sinking it's fangs into my frontal lobe). That said, Memorial Day this year was idyllic. The weather was picture fucking perfect. I got high and rode my bike across town, iPod churning all the way to a park where friends had put together a lovely spread. Gnawing on sweet corn as beams of golden sunlight dart between the tall trees...
The afternoon became the would-be aesthetic framework for a living music video of Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion: long, wispy days, meandering beauty, friends and lovers, the joy of simple things, sunshine.
The show's afternoon-precurser was tailored so well it almost became frightening. One tries to keep expectations tempered and in perspective, but on days like these it's impossible. Problem is, naturally, the band isn't always in the same space. Despite how much I—as a member of the audience—prefer the relatively more intimate venue of the Roseland, Animal Collective might find it a bit of a hangover after playing outdoors to a few thousand more people with swirling winds blowing up from the beautiful Gorge at their backs.
(Blah. Fuck it—get back on track. Scour your mushy brain for remnants of the concert you saw a week ago, even if you have seen three more since...)
Thanks to having been brutally reminded how early shows start at the Roseland, and having been there the night before, I was able to find exactly when the trio would start. The action around the box office was manic. People I knew—and some I didn't—pined for extra tickets. Looks of desperation—either feigned or genuine—abound. The surrounding anticipation of Animal Collective—or the fear of missing them—easily outdid that for TV On The Radio and the Melvins. (I heard rumors about tickets for this particular show being one of the fastest sellouts in Roseland history.)
Lots more kids here than night's previous. Surprisingly, TV On The Radio, as I remember, felt almost like a bar show. (As TVOTR began the line to get ID'd and into the bar took the set's first 15-minutes to ease up.) The Mevlins, not so surprising.
In critical circles the buzz about Animal Collective purposefully sliding into the jam band circuit has been growing and for good reason. Despite leaning so heavily on electronics, the group somehow manages to feel organic, almost remarkably so. Much of it comes from the re-occurring hippy, peace-hugging, out-door loving, easy-going, health-food eating lyrical themes (come to think of it, that's about all Animal Collective sing about). The magical realism of Strawberry Jam remains on the more recent Merriweather Post Pavilion but most all the moments of darkness have been removed (think invocations of Jack The Ripper in Jam's "Unsolved Mysteries" or the taped-slowed deep voice Dracula of "#1").
As much as the granola themes help the slide towards the inevitable Bonnaroo (if they ain't done it already), it's the swirling, trance waves of sparkling, bubbly and goopy sounds that makes Animal Collective potential bong-carrying members of the jam-band circuit. It's simply ideal fucking drug music for laying in the grass, making out, dancing endlessly or rolling on the floor, drooling, eyes rolled back and inside out, meeting God in some alternative plane where the Easter Bunny and Dracula cook up rice and broccoli dinner. Or, in simpler terms, the sounds are becoming rave-like.
The jam-band scene suits Animal Collective well not only because they are indeed dorky (yet lovable) hippies in substance and style, but because their adherence to structure in a live setting is almost non-existent (although on record, this is changing). They like to sprawl out and noodle as they did here. And while they occasionally hit their stride, the songs all lasted long enough that the band covered only a handful of like dynamics. There were few contrasts, instead a more continual buzz-bounce. Moments of minimalism or relative subdue that the band has drifted into in years previous, here were virtually nonexistent.
Despite a big floating paper orb above the band serving as a canvass for video projections(and a spread of PA speaker behind the band that made no clearly obvious aural difference) Animal Collective, who mostly hunched over their samplers, were a visual bore. They simply don't move enough to overcome the inherent snooze that is operating computers as spectacle. (On their previous trip through Portland the band brought along vertical strips of high-powered, multi-colored, searing LCD lights. They back lit the band, making them hard to see clearly, and contributed to a more intense, surreal, masked and defiant overall experience.)
Geologist (Brian Weitz) once told me that in the group's early days that once a song was recorded, they never again played it live. Animal Collective was creating at that fast a clip. Growing popularity and their growing proficiency with pop, however, has forced the group to scale back from quickly retiring songs.
In fact, save for two new numbers (if memory serves, and by now, it may not) the set rolled out like a hit-parade and stretched no further back than Strawberry Jam. The dance floor/hippy-peace-pit pulsed hardest as Animal Collective played their current single and summer anthem indicative of this day in particular, "Summertime Clothes." It's the most people I've ever seen dancing at a rock show in Portland, and, strangely enough, it was the first time I've witnessed Animal Collective perform a song without any stretching out or re-shaping—they played it exactly as on record. Otherwise, standouts like "My Girls," "Lion In A Coma" and "Fireworks" were all expanded upon.
"Fireworks" in particular demonstrated some of the high-emotion and visceral power lacking in Merriweather Post Pavilion. I enjoy all the pretty, groovy parts, but I love it when they scream too. Strawberry Jam (and to a lesser extent Feels) has all the sweet, natural, magical, metaphysical, love stuff, but incorporates mania and catharsis as well—it's fucking punk. And when Panda Bear finally began slamming that big booming floor tom in between spurts of his clever, singular, syncopated style, the electronic waves coming from the many samplers rode higher on the back of the inherent, instinctual tribal stomp. The "Fireworks" suite sprawled into a long, organic jam, and crested back into it's final verse. It was almost as if the band had finally settled into a fine working rhythm and heat. After a number of jams that never quite found their potential, the big logs were now ablaze.
The jam in the middle of "Fireworks"
And as we talked about before, encores are a sure thing these days, and this one looked like it'd be the sought-after peak of an ecstasy tablet.
But somewhere, the wires got crossed.
After the past-capacity crowd really worked for it, Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) re-appeared, approaching the mic with Geologist in tow. "Davey is having some ear problems," he said, adding that Portner's condition was too severe to return for an encore. "Brian and I were trying to think of songs we could do with just the two of us, but we already did 'Comfy In Nautica'" (from Panda Bear's solo album). The two seemed quite earnest, wishing they could do more for their freakish adoring fans.
"It's OK," a voice yelled out from the crowd. "We love you anyway!"
We got out of there around midnight and headed directly to Dante's, where King Kahn and the Shrines had yet to go on. It was fucking perfect, really. I missed Kahn and his hyper-tight German backing last time through, and had been anxious to see them ever since. I heard bad things about that show, that there was a weird hostility between band and audience that ended with a punch. It was surmised by our own Ned Lannamann that part of that hostility was created when Kahn and co. took too long to start the show.
But tonight, that was part of the beauty. The band, and the audience, were provided with ample time—all day in many cases—to get properly lubed up. After all—King Kahn is drunken, debaucherous, late-night, all-night, ripped-to-the-tits, throw it in the fire soul.
"Welfare Bread" & guest Mark "BBQ" Sultan
Now, I'm aware that Maranda reviewed this particular show and I'll save you the double-take, except for a few notes:
- The Shrines crack like a whip. So tight, a beautiful unit where everyone comes together to make a better whole. That means keeping it simple when necessary. They are phenomenal, a drunken, punk, German garage version of James Browns' Famous Flames or something... which makes Kahn the Laziest Man In Show Business. His moves were a bit slovenly, and not really in step with a band so tight. He just sort of rocked back and forth, not really caring to try and match the band's intensity or precision in dance. Indeed Kahn has written some good tunes and gets all the attention, but the Shrines are the real reason for the success.
- I didn't know the Shrines cheerleader-type go-go dancer wasn't wearing underwear but she was still plenty sultry.
- After the sample-driven Animal Collective it was really interesting to feel the comparatively bendy, slinking dynamics of a really tight organic band.
- Proceeding the cake fight, some proceeded to pick the cake of themselves and eat it.
- Mark Sultan, AKA "BBQ" has a pretty fantastic voice for R&B and Kahn looked more natural with a guitar on (see above video).
More on the Sights of King Kahn and the Shrines