24 September 2007
Animal Collective at the Rialto 9/20/07
The Rialto Theatre is located across a done-tore-up street from the Congress hotel where John Dillinger was caught. Tore-up'dness is not special around this part of Tucson, with the whole block looking fairly post-apolcalyptic- the only structures left standing in an apparent re-everything-ing of 4th street being a few "historic" (read: maybe 100 years old) brick buildings. Road work occurring under bright flourescent lights at 10:30 at night. It was a typically restless orange-lit Arizona weekday, made all the more Mad Max-esque by the roaming packs of Animal collective fans emerging from the dark alleyways adorned for a night of freakfolkin': peasant dresses, silver trenchcoats, tie dye, beards and bandanas.
Part 1B: The Opening Act
Early fans collect in front of the stage in down-sloping standing-room where theater seats once sat. A white fabric screen held up by geodesic scaffolding stands front and center stage, getting hopes up for a repeat of the pre-set shadow puppet show witnessed at Solar Culture their last time through Tucson. Not a puppet show, per se, we find out, as Wizard Prison takes the stage behind the screen with their cloaked and hooded silhouettes blocking psychadelic projections on the screen. They stand at their laptops like altars, I guess. They guy on the right moves his hand incantation-style over the keyboard and summons screechy big synth noises while the other wizard prisoner (the more charismatic, perhaps, but less subtle of the two... which one's your favorite?) screeches into a microphone in the darkness to the side of his screen. "WIZARD PRISON" announces the projector as a big distorted beat puts the first of many sinister psych jams into motion. 10 minute song, 10 minutes of noise, then it quiets down and out come the stratocasters. "Animal Collective!" shout some drunk assholes in the front (seriously... big drunk assholes) and the WP let out the loudest distorted power chord you can probably remember hearing and it hurts everyone's ears but they made their point. From here on it's basically like Sunn o))) except not, which is cool with me since I've never seen Sunn o))). Not bad. Oh and they said "thank you" with their projector in big bloody death metal letters with their projector. Friendly guys, Wizard Prison.
And then there was Animal Collective. Geologist, Avey Tare, and Panda Bear from left to right, with their personal array of twelve or so PA speakers and attached multicolored light panels arranged behind their three synth/sampler/percussion stations. They opened with "Unsolved Mysteries", if memory serves, with Tare taking a (for this show) rare turn on the guitar and giving the crowd an early (and even rarer) taste of familiar material.
From there it was a full-on drone trance two hour set that was as challenging as could be expected and as hard to translate into writing as you can probably tell from this account. Oh, and maybe I'm going crazy, but they totally lapsed into a remix of "A Paw in My Face" by The Field. Did anyone else notice that?! Tell me I'm not alone. I definitely heard a sample from this.
So they played all your unreleased youtube-only songs like "walk around" and a couple others. Wound down the evening with a wonderful rendition of Album closer "Derek" (30 minutes of confusion and then those shaker sounds started up and it was like seeing your friend's face in the middle of a crazy dream... Hi Derek!... y'know?) Finishing up in considerately nostalgic form, the played Leaf House, thanked Wizard Prison and wrapped it up... encoreless. Some of the front row kids were pissed, reminding us that, despite the pop monster Animal Collective has become, it has still reserved its right to rub people the wrong way.