March 8, 2016
What a joy to hear Painting With live. Animal Collective is touring their 10th studio album — created by Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), and Geologist (Brian Weitz) — and stopped at the Fonda in Los Angeles last night for the first of two shows.
The band had spoken about Painting With being their Ramones album — a collection of short songs — “something that blasted away the whole time.” Before I read that, I had called Painting With Animal Collective’s Toto moment. Toto (yes, “Africa” Toto) was made up of these technically proficient, skilled musicians who used their expertise to deliberately create these super-catchy pop songs. In the same way, AnCo used what they know about sound, layers and melodies to create these revved-up pop songs, all bursts of energy, without as much ambient sound as in their earlier albums used.
Last night, the better term for AnCo’s set was tsunami pop. The performance was layered under a stunning light show that paid homage to Matisse and Jackson. Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist set up on stage before sculptures of heads (supposedly of the three musicians) and paintings that recalled landscapes by Picasso and Niki de Saint Phalle, all psychedelic bubblegum colors. And the songs came upon us in wave after wave of energy, sending the audience in spastic dances of joy. It was as if Animal Collective wanted us to drown in the experience.
A 6’5” man in front of us danced from beginning to end, like a surf wookie who had just shot down 1,000 tie fighters. On songs such as “FloriDada” and “Summing the Wretch,” singers Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s sublime call and response led the crowd into paroxyms of euphoria. And if you didn’t feel like dancing your feet off, it was still an aural and visual delight. That Animal Collective, for that hour-and-a-half set, was able to pay homage to the gods of modern art in a way that teenagers found extremely palatable was exciting to watch, and immersive as hell.
I forgot everything else that was going on outside that room. It didn’t matter that Donald Trump had been winning all the primaries, that the KKK were brazenly organizing rallies in Anaheim, that global warming is coming faster than we know it and there wasn’t enough rain to alleviate this drought. For one and a half hours, I was able to chill in a room with the synthesizers, feeling present and yet, somewhere else at the same time.
My father Santiago Bose was a visual artist; once he said this about why art was important, and what Animal Collective was able to do at last night’s show: “When I read artistic books, listen to good music or see a good painting, I absorb the life of the imagination, a life without boundaries. That’s what art offers, and that’s why art matters.”