Carter Shelter, Staff Writer
Animal Collective are an indie music institution. They delivered some of the most transformative records of the 00’s including Feels and Merriweather Post Pavilion and have developed a reputation as a truly transcendent live band that have the ability to take their songs and their audiences’ minds into ever-expanding, unexplored space. Their music leaves room for deep thought and uninhibited fun, combining psychedelic textures and poppy melodies, it’s dance heavy and tripped out. When the band released Painting With earlier this month, it arrived with clear intention. It was a manic record, brimming with energy and taking the band’s eccentricities and sensibilities and condensing them down into perfect packages of psychedelic pop. Unlike with most of their past albums, the songs on Painting With were not performed live before the album was recorded, so fans were eagerly awaiting to pay witness to the way Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist would transform these tunes on stage.
If their first of two sold out shows at Irving Plaza was any indication, Animal Collective are only just getting started giving these songs the life they’ll go on to live. They opened their set with “Golden Gal,” one of the strongest tunes on Painting With, and allowed the introverted production of the record to slowly grow out, adding waves of sound upon waves of sound and building a natural pulse to the performance. Each member of the crowd seemed lost in their own world, some slowly tripping out and swaying back forth and some dancing their asses off to the barrage of beats and samples, but they also seemed to operate as one being, understanding and reacting to each musical moment the band unleashed. Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s vocal interplay was mesmerizing, often times making it difficult to know who was singing which part, their voices melding themselves into the music.
It became clear right off the bat that the new album could quickly become a fan favorite. In a set largely composed of the new material, the crowd seemed to cheer at the start of each song, showing just as much, if not more, affection for songs like “Golden Gal,” “Bagels in Kiev,” and “FloriDada” as they did for long-time favorites like “Daily Routine” and “Loch Raven.” The band embarked on jams that invaded the minds of the audience, drawing tracks like “Lying in the Grass” and “Recycling” into epic freak-outs. They closed the set with a stunning rendition of “Alvin Row” off of their debut album, bringing a wash of pure bliss over the entire venue as the song built up for what must have been more than 15 minutes, sending out glitchy synth noises on top of room-shaking bass tones, Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s harmonies soaring over the mix. The show seemed to have ended too soon, and the crowd was forced to leave the psychedelic euphoria that Animal Collective had created and head back out into the cold and rain.