Animal Collective @ Prospect Park

BROOKLYN, NY—Yep, Animal Collective in Brooklyn. This artist/venue pairing guarantees one thing above all else: Hipsters. Lots of ‘em. Beards, thrift store ensembles, and irony. I won’t deny that my taste in music overlaps quite a bit with the hipster elite, but somewhere between listening to TV On The Radio and sporting a fanny pack, I have to draw the line. A decent portion of the crowd, however, had no qualms whatsoever about steamrolling right over that line, and thus I was surrounded by perhaps the most fashionably unfashionable accessory next to shutter shades.

Still, to generalize the entire audience as a gathering of hipsters would not only be incorrect, but also a disservice to Animal Collective and the following they’ve developed over the decade. With each release, the band has gotten closer to perfecting their own vision of pop music—never conventional, but increasingly catchy—and the fawning of the critics has spilled over into the consciousness of the general public. And so, amongst the throngs of hipsters stood punk rockers, kids with their parents, sorority girls, and a large number of average people with no discernible affiliations. It’s a respectably diverse fanbase for a group whose music once consisted largely of found sounds and childish gibberish.

This particular Saturday date was added after Friday night’s show sold out—another testament to Animal Collective’s ever growing following, considering the size of Prospect Park’s bandshell. Somewhere in the scheduling, Friday night support Black Dice were unable to make a reappearance, and so the restless crowd was left at the mercy of two DJs for nearly three hours. XXXchange spent his entire set spinning records and mostly ignoring the crowd—basically, playing the role of the live engineer who throws some music on to keep the crowd docile between bands. Despite his relative indifference towards the crowd, his set went over much better than the direct support, Dãm-Funk.

Dãm-Funk hails from Los Angeles, where he has positioned himself as the “Ambassador of Boogie Funk,” but to the crowd of Brooklynites out to witness the post-modern sonic insanity of Animal Collective, his crate-digging throwbacks to early ‘80s boogie and soul were unappreciated. His remix of Animal Collective’s most recent single, “Summertime Clothes,” might have won the crowd over, but instead we were treated to an hour of unfamiliar music and silly antics that peaked with the use of a keytar. Unfortunately, there’s just absolutely no way to follow a ridiculous keytar solo, and so the rest of his set suffered even more for it. It was all the more disappointing for his affiliation with Stones Throw—a Madlib he was not.

Finally, three hours after the park was opened for ticket holders, Animal Collective took the stage and proceeded to erase all memory of the tedious wait with a mind-blowing set—the setlist was obviously geared towards newer fans, but the show was all the better for it. I’ve heard stories about the Collective’s inability to match their recorded genius with an engaging live show, but on this night the band more than defended itself against such criticism. The bass was deep and forceful—the kind that feels like you’re hearing it with your innards rather than your ears—and from the new, unrecorded opener of “Grace” to the triple punch of “Fireworks,” “My Girls,” and “Brother Sport,” the band augmented its playful harmonies with a rhythmic intensity that it keeps reserved on its albums. The band even included “Comfy In Nautica,” a track from Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox’s solo album, but despite the attention given in the press to Lennox’s Beach Boys-esque voice, David “Avey Tare” Portner proved himself the true frontman of Animal Collective’s live presence. He hit all the right notes and moved about the stage with an energy that his bandmates could not replicate, being tethered to their samplers and keyboards. The nautical-themed stage set-up—featuring moving cut-outs of waves, a giant shark, jellyfish lights, and two tribal looking light-up monoliths—was as fun and bizarre as the band’s music, and at the cue of the flashing lights and colors, many a concertgoer took advantage of the cover of darkness to toke up. I suppose we all know what they keep in their fanny packs.