Review: Animal Collective @ Riverside Theater (5/19)

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Words by Adam Lovinus * Photos by CJ Foeckler

Sold out crowd at the Riverside Theater for Animal Collective; 91.7 WMSE host Ryan Schleicher was right when he said Milwaukee has come a long way. Either we’re developing a taste for experimental-ish electro-folk, or the scene is getting younger. Judging by the army of 16-year-olds in neon tops and tightpants, it’s a little of both. Nevertheless …

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The cool thing about showtime is the scene goes away once they take the lights down. Unless you’re an asshole that tries to start an “Animal Collective!” chant during the opening act. Then it’s hard to ignore. I was digging the opener Grouper, and her lush n’ layered guitar strumming. Really awesome use of a delay rack — the way sound moves through the Riverside made it all the more psychedelic and mesmerizing.

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The thing I was most impressed with about Animal Collective is how they weave and segue in and out of songs. For a band that relies mostly on delay pedals, digital sequencing and synth loops, Animal Collective legitimately jams. There’s clearly a Point A and a Point B, and they’ll sort of meander in between, with a definite degree of improv. Some real USB jazz. The “Brother Sport” jam was unstoppalbe.

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Most of the time, they’re pushing buttons, building collages of loops. It’s hard to have a funky dance when you’re playing an elaborate table-top effects loop. The head-lanterns look cool enough.

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The stage set-up involves a lot of white – white table cloths under the instrumentation, a big white orb overhead – acting as a projection screen for a hugely psychedelic light show.

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Steve at the Decider commented about the lack of sound dynamics of the show. I’ll agree with him. On “In the Flowers” I was wanting to be pummeled by the stampeding “B” part of the song, but apparently the band was already turned up to 11 during the “A” part … oh well.

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The Merriweather hits “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes” were ecstacy in the dance-pit.

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Later, it sounds like peaking on acid at a rave party, and someone spins a Beach Boys record as the sun comes up. Am I hearing this? This is what I was thinking during “Guys Eyes.”

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