As I left UBC, I knew that the night was going to be a bizarre one, and I was pretty much on the mark with my suspicion. I hopped a bus downtown and then a second into Stanley Park, and naturally, lost my way trying to find Malkin Bowl. For everyone’s future reference, it’s downhill from the bus loop, not uphill. Also, don’t be afraid to use maps, they help.
Once I got inside I found a nice place to nestle my butt in the grass among the scattered small crowd that had shown up already. It was still sunny out and warm, but with a nice cool breeze; a great place to hang out and chill before the night started. I love the way the venue is shaped: you’ve got yourself a nice hill to sit on, a cordoned off beer garden area, and the main area has a nice downhill gradient so that people can have a seat and still see the stage.
And what a stage it was. A giant mouth with teeth along the top, and more along the sides at the floor of the stage was a major target for the eyes. Behind those chompers were three centipede legs and a screen in the back for a projector to shine psychedelic patterns to go along with the psychedelic experimental rock that Animal Collective is known for. The stage set-up was thematically set up based on the scheme of the newest album Centipede Hz which has mouths and centipedes galore.
When Micachu and the Shapes started right on-time at 7, there weren’t an awful lot of people waiting to listen. Although they released an album, Jewellery, to quite a few rave reviews, as well as having recently released an album in July, Never, I think the band is still relatively unknown. Being from the UK also doesn’t help when playing to a Canadian audience but they did have one thing going for them: they’re weird as hell, and so they fit in perfectly with Animal Collective. I saw the 3-piece once before when they played with Spoon and Deerhunter; didn’t really get into them then, but I was willing to give it another shot.
For the first song, the vocals were almost non-existent other than the drummer’s, but that was fixed up by the second song. By this point I was reminded that, yes indeed, you had to really have a bizarre and eclectic taste in music to be there that day. And since everyone was there for Animal Collective, it was pretty much assured. I really liked the third song they played, and by the time the eleven song set was finished, I felt like my love for Micachu and the Shapes grew three sizes that day. Eleven songs in a 45 minute set blasted by, and by then it was starting to freeze right up temperature-wise. Animal Collective was supposed to be on the stage from “8 PM on”, and by about ten after, the lights went out, and the music and projected madness started up.
Avey Tare, Panda Bear, The Geologist (headlamp and all), and the returned Deakin were all up on stage together, and it was a beautiful thing. As they started up with ‘Also Frightened’ from Merriweather Post Pavilion, those teeth up on stage lit right up and the projected images spun on the centipede legs and screen in the back, giving the look of madness that should follow the sounds being emitted from the stage. ‘Applesauce’, ‘Wide Eyed’, and the first single, ‘Today’s Supernatural’, from the incredible new Centipede Hz album hit the crowd to roars of excitement. The lit-up teeth streamed through all the colours of the rainbow, and ‘Today’s Supernatural’ had to be my favourite song of the night, with the live version blowing the album version out of the water. To hear Avey Tare let loose a shriek of “L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-LET GO” was incredible. The song was full of life and insanity playing with electronic sounds and changing time signatures. ‘Honeycomb’ from the Honeycomb/Gotham 7” single starts out sounding a bit like a re-run of Speed Racer, and then moves into a bouncing beat that had everyone in the crowd bobbing and jumping up and down to the groovy beat. ‘Lion In A Coma’ kept the laid back feeling going with a twanging reminiscent of some sort of mouth harp/didgeridoo hybrid, yet was able to keep speed and energy in the movement of lyrics. ‘Moonjock’, ‘Pulleys’ and the Panda Bear-sung ‘New Town Burnout’ kept the Centipede Hz hits coming, really showing off the scope and great sound of the new album the four-piece put together. Deakin moved into center stage with his guitar as they played ‘Monkey Riches’ another of my favourites from the new album. Avey Tare can put a lot of power behind his singing, giving of bursts of a shout or shriek whenever he needs to; mostly when he’s “gonna knock you down”.
The set finished up with ‘Brother Sport’, a song that makes me think of Vampire Weekend if they were an electronic, experimental rock band, and Strawberry Jam’s awesome, bouncy single ‘Peacebone’. The crowd went crazy for it, and Avey Tare really got to let it all go shouting and shrieking about a third through the song. I think most of the audience even got into shouting “you’re just an”, and “adjust your” followed by Avey Tare’s falsetto “inside”.
With the crowd applauding and cheering, they quickly left and then returned to the stage to play an encore starting off with ‘Cobwebs’ from their Water Curses EP which was released in-between Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion. ‘Cobwebs’ is an odd song, and it felt like it didn’t quite fit with the feeling that most of the other songs had set the evening, but it certainly isn’t a bad song, so I was still swaying away to its gentle waves of sound. The crowd got another great single with ‘My Girls’ from Merriweather Post Pavilion, which left the lines “I don’t mean, to seem like I care about material things, like a social status. I just want, four walls and adobe slats for my girls” and had people woo-ing and raising their fists when it was needed.
The night finished off with the last song from Centipede Hz, ‘Amanita’, which was a great way to put a close to things. With a sound that reminds me of something I might hear out of Aladdin in the year 2281, it had the big weird finish that Animal Collective could really go out on.
And with that it was over. Everyone cheered and clapped again and it was all said and done.
If you were there to hear any of their songs pre-Strawberry Jam, you were in for a huge disappointment, and even though I didn’t get to hear ‘Purple Bottle’, the first singles from their three newest albums more than made up for it. If you haven’t listened to Centipede Hz, now is the time to do so; you’re missing out on ‘Today’s Supernatural’, and if you ever get the chance to hear that live, then you’re in for a mighty big treat. Being the last concert in Malkin Bowl for this year, it was a perfect send-off for concert-goers.