Review: Animal Collective | Mr. Smalls | 7.13.11
Well. I was warned Animal Collective’s live show isn’t very good and did I listen? Nope. So rather than sugar-coat this one, we’re going to tell it like it is. Apologies in advance if this offends you, but we aren’t alone in this opinion. As a blogger, you walk a fine line between telling the truth and pissing people off. This is one occasion in which it’s necessary. A band such as Animal Collective, whose fame has risen to super-status in the indie circuit, has a lot riding on their reputation. I’m not too familiar with their catalog, but felt as though I needed to attend this show for credibility reasons. With a three-hour sellout, this was one of Pittsburgh’s most anticipated shows of 2011. I’d set high expectations for a band who made “one of the landmark American albums of the century so far” according to Uncut Magazine. That is a bold statement! In fact, Animal Collective and bold statements go hand-in-hand when media is concerned. They’re highly regarded. So, I began my journey into the unknown wondering what all of the fuss was about. What exactly are the reasons this psychedelic, experimental mashup of musicians who all have other respected projects are so adored by fans of indie music?
You tell me, because frankly – I just don’t get it. I go to an ungodly amount of shows. For every concert the average person attends, I’ve probably seen five times as many. Hell, maybe even more. I’d like to think I’ve been around the block enough to know what’s impressive and what’s a bit underwhelming, and well, Animal Collective’s show was just a giant snooze-fest. I kept waiting for it to get better. All of us did. I’ve never been so confused at a show. I kept thinking….ok…we’re on our way to legendary concert moments…but all I ended up with was a serious case of musical blue balls. I have a few criticisms.
Starting with the set, which might have looked cool on LSD or mushrooms, but just on straight booze looked like something I could have come up with in the 3rd grade – I entered the venue, lost my mind for a split second, and thought that it was Halloween. There was an orange garland that stretched from one end of the stage to the other which looked like something you’d hang at a Halloween party. Straight up. I hope they didn’t put too much effort into making that, because a similar option could have been purchased at Dollar General. Moving on to the lighting, which I couldn’t stop staring at the entire show because it reminded me of the Aggro Crag from GUTS, was some of the tackiest shit I have ever seen at a concert. Between that and the giant pair of sunglasses which looked like they were wrapped in aluminum foil, I’d have to give their production value a giant F for eFFort. The photos are elusive and make the set look somewhat interesting, but don’t be fooled, even my outfit was cooler than that shiz.
I hate to be so critical, I really do, but man. I was expecting more from you, Animal Collective. Add to this the fact that they didn’t even play their biggest hit, My Girls, and you’ve got quite a bummer on your hands. They played one banger of a tune, “Brother Sport” which got everyone sufficiently pumped up and dancing, then subsequently killed the mood with an array of abstract tunes from their repertoire. There was a real crowd disconnect taking place here. Other than the die-hard fans who hung on every note, the general consensus of the room, which was reinforced by someone yelling “Animal Collective sucks!” at the close of the show, was indeed, a vast disappointment.
All in all, the night wasn’t a complete loss. I was pleased to see the fantastic renovations that Smalls has made to the outdoor area. We were greeted by their new general manager, who is totally on top of his shit. I was impressed. They now have a bar/grill outside and can whip up some tasty delights such as weiners, veggie dogs and burgers, and an assortment of other foods that totally hit the spot when you’re in drunken munchie mode. Add to that the pimp patio area up the stairs past the building their box office is in, and you’ve got some prime outdoor space to escape to when you need a break from the show. They’ve changed their re-entry policy to accommodate smokers, so now anyone can leave and enter at any point during the show. All of these improvements make a great impact to attending a show at Smalls. If I didn’t have that mid-show hot dog, I might have had a serious hangover today. But I didn’t. Thanks, Smalls.
While I won’t write off Animal Collective entirely, I will always trust my gut and go with what I think will be the superior live experience when I’m forced to make a tough decision. I think many of us wished we were at the Wild Nothing/Twin Sister show. Lesson learned.