The Animals Come Out to Play

We’re adorned in feathers and beads, at our own indoor Woodstock in Metropolis.

Everyone’s smiling, soaking the music into our skin. The lights aren’t quite dimmed yet as Dan Deacon plays master of ceremonies, raving about forests of hair with a drummer on either side of him. He acoustically loops and layers percussion with the help of his ensemble, and shit-talks the laptop member of his band. He caresses the stage monitors, propelling good wishes through the crowd amid his hippie club music.

Deacon tells us to keep up the protests, that they’re good for us, before leaving the stage to our headliner’s sound techs. It’s not until then that I realize Animal Collective has lined the top and bottom of the stage with giant teeth.

Unceremoniously taking the stage, they lull us in with “New Town Burnout” before exploding into “Moonjock,” both off their latest Centipede Hz, a handbook to new-school psychedelia with Deakin back in the mix. Panda Bear behind a full drum kit and Avey Tare wielding a guitar, everything’s much more live here than the Merriweather Post Pavillion setup. They stay away from anything on their biggest record, until “Brother Sport” makes a welcomed appearance in their second set.

An early high point is “Today’s Supernatural,” the crowd erupting as the bouncing trip disintegrates into distortion halfway through the song. We’re all dancing together, hands snaking in the air like 21st-century flower children.

The first set is all about Centepede Hz, but they start turning back time after returning to the stage, first by channeling The Grateful Dead in cut time 7/4 “What Do I Want? Sky.” We sink deeper as each interlude hints at the next song, dropping into dancing and ecstasy at the perfect moment as they do so often. The crowd laps up older favourites like “Did You See the Words” and “Purple Bottle,” we all scream along with Avey Tare as he jumps around during “Peacebone.”

It all ends without a word; with barely a moment of silence during their nearly two-hour set, the contrast is jarring. We’re left with an infectious high, willing the night to continue and for an encore at least to hear “For Reverend Green.” But no such luck, although we’re better off than Toronto—the band cancelled their Saturday show due to illness.

The show reveals only one side of Animal Collective, of the always-weird, always evolving band’s huge repertoire. This Centipede Hz tour shows them as old pros with a light show that swallows you whole, retreated from their ultra-accessible Merriweather / Fall Be Kind phase. They’ve come out the other end with yet another sound, more psychedelic than ever. Where they go next is anyone’s guess.