Anyone who has heard even a lick of Animal Collective's music has to admit they are one of the strangest bands to have captured the attention of the indie scene lo these past 15 years. And with the release of its most recent album Centipede Hz, the band's popularity continues to grow to the point that their fan base seems to be skewing younger and younger.
With that in mind, I had the thought that a young fan and a slightly jaded, "been-there, done-that" kind of fan (aka me) might have much different perspectives on seeing the band in concert. So, I decided to test this theory, nabbing a super Animal Collective fan in his teen years and bringing him along to the show and then have us compare notes afterwards.
The teen who was willing to take part in this little experiment was Boston Slevin, the 15-year-old son of a family friend. Boston is a huge Animal Collective fan, citing the band as one of the biggest influences on his band, the noise duo Ritual Galaxy. There wasn't as much disagreement in our conversation as I was expecting. In fact, I was pretty impressed with how much we saw eye-to-eye on the tone of the AnCo live experience. And, as you'll see below, the kid can drop names like Merzbow and Wolf Eyes without batting an eye. There's hope for the future yet.
Robert Ham: So, am I right that you've never seen Animal Collective in concert before?
Boston Slevin: No, I never have.
How long have you been listening to Animal Collective?
I think since 2008.
When you were like 11 or 12?
Yeah. I liked it because my parents hated it. And I liked it because I didn't really like it either. Most music makes you feel nice and comfortable. But Animal Collective just didn't do that, and I thought that was an interesting feeling. So, I started listening to more and more of it, going backwards to their earlier stuff.
How did the live show live up to your expectations?
It sort of made sense with the aesthetic of the music. It was spot on, you know? It perfectly mimicked the environment the music has. I was afraid it wasn't going to live up to what I was expecting. But it definitely did. It was super fun.
For me, it took far too long for me to get into it. I'm not sure if that's me being the jaded 37-year-old. But it took until the last half of the set for me to really fall in line with what they were doing.
They saved the really bumping songs for the end. The first song or two, I felt like they were kind of shaky. But they definitely worked into it.
Seemed like they were having some kind of technical issues. When they got to "Today's Supernatural," it felt like the bass response was starting to overwhelm everything else on stage.
I think that was the Moog foot pedals that Geologist was using.
What was it like up at the very front?
It was pretty cool because [Animal Collective member] Avey Tare was just right there, next to us. Weeks before tonight, I constantly talked to my friends, "We're gonna get to see Avey scream! Live! For real!" It was really cool to see him doing his thing. You could really see how every member of the band fit into place live rather than on a record. Some people say that certain members of the band don't do much. But there was none of that.
What were some of your favorite songs tonight?
I really dug "Cobwebs" because it sort of contrasted with the craziness. Sort of mellowed things down. I liked "New Town Burnout" because that was one of my favorite songs on the new record. I felt like some of the other songs on the new record are definitely a lot different live. "New Town Burnout" wasn't exactly the same but it was a live version of a studio song.
Were there any spots that didn't work for you?
"Peacebone" kind of ... like they made it fit, but Strawberry Jam has a way different aesthetic than any of the other records. That's like the way harsh, kind of gnarly one, 'cause Avey's doing his squelchy screams. They made it fit but it felt like it was out of place. I think "Moonjock" did a good job fitting in because on the record it doesn't do that for me. It's definitely a live song.
How was the crowd for you?
I don't want to sound like an elitist or anything but I definitely felt like there were some people who were just there for "My Girls" or songs from Merriweather [Post Pavilion]. People were complaining in the interludes, which I was loving. I love the little transitions that they do and when some technical problem happened and Geologist was jamming out with his stuff and everybody was like "What's wrong?" I think there were a lot of people there just for the poppy side.
I think you're right because I was standing in the bar when "My Girls" started and all these people came rushing down from the balcony to start dancing. I didn't know that a lot of women had embraced that song like that. I thought it was just a song Panda Bear had written about his wife and daughter.
I've always thought that too. It's not really a club song. For me, that's not even the strongest point on Merriweather so it's weird that people are so attached to it. People were just expecting that.
They are one of the strangest bands to be as popular as they are. I'm excited about that in a way. There's such weirdness and experimentalism happening in Animal Collective that I always hope that people would start exploring that side of the music world. But I don't really see that happening.
Yeah, like, that's sort of what I did. I started listening to Strawberry Jam and Merriweather, really digging the poppy parts but getting into the noisy side. Those records are why I like Black Dice, Merzbow or Wolf Eyes. It introduced me to noise music. But I think the reason they're so popular is because of that poppy side but the reason they're not super duper everywhere is because of that noisy side. I think they've stayed where they are because of their popularity because they just do what they do. They're not trying to live up to expectations.