Animal Collective @ Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA 4/11/11

I was one of the lucky ones to attend the Animal Collective tour opener last night in Petaluma, just a quick hour drive north after a day spent out in the sun with friends. I’ve been pretty amped on the band since their work on Merriweather Post Pavilion and it’s really brought me back deeper into their catalog, which was something that actually didn’t come in handy at all given the band’s choice of about 9 new songs to anchor their 80 minute set in a punk movie theater in northern California. All in all a really weird show but something I was glad to see and something I can now re-live thanks to a ton of YouTube uploads (via CoS) and a kind taper that’s already posted the set on the band’s fan board. Definitely planning on giving this a few spins before I see them again on Wednesday night at Great American Music Hall.

First and foremost, I had a feeling the show was going to be a different Animal Collective because I know to expect that from them now. They’re a band constantly evolving and never satisfied with one sound or one groove or one pattern, but rather they’re always pushing on the ethos that noise can bring beauty and songs can be triumphant if not scary at times. It’s an amazing formula that I’m not sure they fully pulled off last night, mostly because I’m not sure anyone could groove with them in the way that their music can bring on only one listen to the material. Maybe they did lose me with all the new stuff but it definitely felt like a weird show to me. Right from the start Deakin made his presence on stage where Panda Bear called home on their last tour, with PB moved slightly toward stage center behind a drum kit where he’s sitting at (something I’m fairly sure is a new musical introduction for the band). It felt new. It felt like I was watching a new band get a grip on the fact that they had just written a bunch of material and they had no clue if anybody was going to like it. Avey and Geologist were rocking as you’d expect them to with plenty of interesting compositions and sounds swirling about in the mix.

Despite some early and gnarly sound problems there were plenty of moments where the noise and flow faded so wonderfully into the wash of psychedelia that this band has pioneered and reluctantly called their own. But they never get bored and rely on old tricks, so they book a show in Petaluma and decide to road test some stuff. And some of it is down-right incredible and all of it felt like it was already set for a new album. But some of it just didn’t work putting new song after new song after new song. In 80 minutes they played four songs that people recognized and danced along to. Granted, there were some ill moments but still, my quick notes were that it wasn’t a show that had the exact flow or performance that I’d hope for given all the material they didn’t even bother to kinda touch. I’ve put up my two favorite tracks from the show here for a quick sample and you can download the whole show here (via Collected Animals). You be the judge.

Animal Collective – Untitled * [MP3] >
Animal Collective – Untitled ** [MP3]

* – “Take This Weight” = fan-given song title
** – “Knock You Down” = fan-given song title

Read on for some of the videos from the show.

"Mercury" by Animal Collective @ The Phoenix in Petaluma

Finally, here’s the poster from the show.