Animal Collective’s Big Day Out sideshow took a while to get going, but when it did, it displayed the versatility and abundance of talent of the American experimental four-piece.

Electronic duo Africa Hitech opened the night with an energetic, bass-heavy set to a steadily building crowd. Featuring Australian producer Mark Pritchard and short bursts of vocals from Steve Spacek, the pair hunched over their respective laptops, creating an intense atmosphere that set the scene for what was to come.

After a brief break, the house lights were dimmed and a stunning, eclectic array of projections were poured onto the large, inflatable backdrop. Including some overhanging teeth, signaling the entrance of the quartet, that nowadays consists of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin.

From the very first notes of opener ‘Oh Rosie’, it’s glaringly obvious that the band are much more at home at their own headline show, rather than the expansive surroundings of a large festival.

With the impressive lighting and projections becoming almost as important to the performance as the music, it created a certain mystique and surreal quality to the night.

Beginning with four songs off their highly divisive ninth album Centipede Hz, the start failed to fully captivate the sizable crowd, with elongated distortion and ambient sounds in between songs ensuring each merged into the next, without any breaks for applause or banter.

With the huge reaction to the first Merriweather Post Pavilion track, ‘Lion In A Coma’, it’s obvious that these are the songs that most people are here to see.

Accompanied by some fantastic lighting, the track sees guitarist and singer Deakin gleefully spinning around at the centre of the stage, proving to be the only member that ever really tried to interact with the audience.

For most of the night, each member was seemingly lost in their own individual world of instruments; Geologist with his trademark headlight hunched over an array of keyboards and knobs, Panda Bear managing to complete complex drumming while delivering soaring vocals, Avey Tare surrounded by keyboards; and Deakin switching between guitar and the drum pads.

It’s not until Centipede Hz standout ‘Monkey Riches’ that the night truly starts to get going, breathing some much needed energy into both the band and the now enthusiastic crowd.

Leading slowly and brilliantly into the infectious ‘Brother Sport’, the track suits the live setting perfectly and saw Avey Tare and Panda Bear trading vocals for minutes on end.

With a set that included every song from their latest offering (except ‘Father Time’ and ‘Mercury Man’) and with very little older material (only playing two pre-Merriweather numbers), it was never going to please everyone, but the final 45 minutes of the nearly two hour set displayed just how good a live act Animal Collective can be.

After an explosive finish to Strawberry Jam’s ‘Peacebone’, and an inevitable encore break, the band return for three more high quality performances.

As Deakin bounded back onto stage, he finally said the first audible words of the night to the excitable masses, “you guys are amazing, and I’m not just saying that. Is it alright if we play a few more songs?”

It obviously was, and they slowly teased the unmistakable beginnings of the band’s biggest song ‘My Girls’. Finally launching into an extended and fantastic version, even featuring a mass sing-along that had everyone moving at the front.

Centipede Hz closer ‘Amanita’ quickly descended into mayhem and aptly summed up the night: weird, at times abrasive, but at others – truly wonderful.

If the caliber of the final third of the set could have been maintained for the rest, it would have been a special show.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine