The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Beards, Cardigans And Glasses: Animal Collective; Birdmonster

It's no secret that I like the indie rock and even more than liking "the indie rock," I like the "indie rock" concerts and for either the disappointment or interest of everyone who reads this blog, I like to write concert reviews of these shows where I go deep into the trenches of hipster-dom, braving the unwashed hordes in their beards, cardigans and glasses. Therefore, concert reviews of the indie rock persuasion will be reviewed in an ongoing Thursday review section called "Beards, Cardigans and Glasses." When I go to a rap show, I will obviously think of a different clever review title. This will be difficult. I am not that clever.

To be quite honest, I often feel like not much of a critic when I write about a show. For the most part, I love concerts and am willing to see almost any band live once and usually end up praising them rather highly. For me, a generally cynical and iron-hearted individual going to shows is one of the rare times that I experience a positive experience in a public environment (in fact, other than listening to music, drinking and watching sports, I generally loathe crowds of people...who would've thought?) To me, there are few better experiences in life than being hopelessly captivated by an incredible band, a band that can't help make me wish that instead of playing baseball and basketball my entire life, I would've just bought a guitar. (this also would've saved me the indignity of having to wear both a cup and baseball pants...that is a different rant for a different day).

That being said, this Tuesday night, watching Animal Collective at the Vanguard was certainly not one of those transcendent experiences. First off, whoever booked Animal Collective at the Vanguard should be shot. The Vanguard is located at the far eastern end of Hollywood Blvd. and is practically impossible to find, so my night started off all sorts of awesome, parking five long blocks from the venue, having no idea how to find the place. When I finally arrived, I was treated to an incredibly long line to get in, because people were being searched. Now I expect to be searched at a hip hop show or a big festival, but at a fucking Animal Collective show? This band might have the most non-threatening group of fans ever. What was someone going to beat me to death with a slab of frozen tofu? Seriously, if you want to know what the average person looked like at the show, click here.

Thinking that I'd be all savvy, I decided to bypass the long line by sliding in the practically empty under 21-line, only to have the bouncer draw a massive "X" all over the back of my right hand. Not like I care what I look like in front of these hippie fucks, but it's now Thursday and that fucking X has not washed off. I look like I'm straight edged. That is not cool. I feel like I should be in Fall Out Boy or something (because three out of four of those brain surgeons are straight edged. Natch. Rock N' Roll. Fuck Yeah!!!).

And the search itself, needless to say there are lawsuits just waiting to be filed at that venue. Those bouncers are disturbingly thorough. They searched the aspirin bottle of the person I was with. Yes, because we were clearly stupid enough to bring in a full bottle of ecstasy to the concert. I look like many things but I don't look like I slang ecstasy. Marijuana perhaps. But certainly not ecstasy.

Annoyed, I walk into the place , packed to its full capacity to the point of where it was practically impossible to move. The venue itself looked more suited to be a meat locker than to host a concert. Cold drab cinder block walls, poor lighting and limited visibility. Worst. Venue. Ever.

But I tried to play it cool. hoping to stay calm in the face of hipsters jutting every which way, practicing irony uncontrollably. I'm pretty sure that I even saw a couple kids trying to have a freestyle cipher before the show, proving once again that hipsters need to buy a fucking clue.

Coming into the show, I was unclear what to expect from this group. I'd read multiple times about their greatness on Pitchfork, and while people are quick to hate on Pitchfork, for the most part I think they have a pretty reliable group of writers over there, as I've discovered some of my favorite bands from reading favorable Pitchfork reviews. However, if I've noticed one crucial pitfall that their writers have, it's that they tend to confuse weirdness and experimentation with brilliance (see Fiery Furnaces and MIA, who as far as I'm concerned are both unlistenable.)

But among all the bands that that website holds sacred, perhaps Animal Collective is held in the highest esteem. Plus, a guy I know who knows a whole lot about music told me, "Have you seen Animal Collective live? Go! They'll be your new favorite band."

So I bought their latest CD, "Feels," which Pitchfork bestowed with an effusive 9.0 and I listened to it once or twice before going to the show. To me, it was one of those CD's I couldn't tell if I loved or hated. Generally, I'm willing to give a CD four or five spins before forming an opinion, making sure one of those spins is stoned. Now I hadn't heard Animal Collective high, but had been relatively unimpressed by "Feels" prior to coming to the show. Luckily, before the show I had been working on the novel, which meant that saying that I was "higher than a giraffe's ass" would be an understatement.

Finally, they go on. Or I should say, they shuffle onto stage and play one droning chord repeatedly, while some guy wearing a Miner's hat (with miner's light), starts yelping gibberish onstage. I don't care how many drugs you can consume, I can't imagine how I was supposed to find this brilliant. Then there was the fact that the members of the band go by the names Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin. I assume the Geologist was the dude wearing the night light on his head. Not sure how what I'm supposed to think about those nicknames, but I guess if my name was Brian Weitz or Noah Lennox like two of the guys in the band, I'd pick myself a stage name. Though truth to told, I'd pick something tighter than fucking Panda Bear (something like Spaceman Spliff, not like I've thought about it or anything).

Anyways, so the moment the Collective comes onstage, the hipsters flood forward knocking me every which way. I'm getting annoyed and fast, as they keep on bumping into me or standing six inches away from my face. So I duck to the back because I didn't feel like I was missing a damned thing (seven minutes in the concert and the guitarist was still playing the same chord and the singer was still yelping the same gibberish).

In the back at first I have some more air. This lasts for about five seconds until some hipster who looked like a Bar-Mitzvah DJ started drunkenly swaying back and forth about three inches from my face, bumping into me , not apologizing for it, just swaying relentlessly, completely blocking my entire view and not even noticing a damn thing. Now I'm well aware that I'm not the toughest man on the planet by any stretch of the imagination. However, I'm also well aware if there were ever a place where I could probably handle my own, it would definitely be an Animal Collective concert.

"Yo, can you please get out of my face," I said to Bar-Mitzvah DJ. "You're stepping right in front of me like every five seconds and you've been knocking into me."

Dumb hipster just looks at me. Says nothing.

"Look man, I'm not trying to talk shit to you. But you better move over there. Now."

He moved. This is what I've been reduced to. Punking kids at Animal Collective concerts. My mother would be so proud. But seriously, people need to learn their concert etiquette, you don't knock into people without apologizing. Period. I don't care how drunk you are. You need to have some respect. If this were a Mike Jones concert or something, that guy would've found himself bloody in a parking lot for that sort of behavior. This of course is a guess what a Mike Jones concert would be like. You'd have to pay me to watch that dude rap.

As for the rest of the show, let's just say I bounced after about 20 minutes. There were far too many people packed in, I could barely see the stage and the band didn't even play any songs and anything resembling a song. Harmonium actually reviewed an Animal Collective show and gave it some praise. Here are some excerpts from the review:

"Logan Square Auditorium seemed like the perfect venue for the psychedelic drones and screeching yelps of the increasingly popular Animal Collective."

So if you like drones and screeching yelps maybe it was for you.

"Just as suspected, however, Animal Collective demanded the audience’s attention from the get-go. Impressive lighting only heightened the effect as the band churned through their set, sometimes meandering along a single beat provided by Geologist (Brian Weitz) and at other times ripping into a full-on freakout like only an Animal Collective could do. At times you might say they even “rocked”.

The band was in high gear throughout the set, never stopping for a breather as they smoothly transitioned from one piece to the next. I say piece because the show felt like one big monster. The whole set was one large collection of sounds, one merging into the next without a second thought. At times it was hard to negotiate when they actually shifted to the next “track”. Maybe they never did."

So basically what it all comes down to is I really really don't like Animal Collective live. Their latest album isn't terrible but it's definitely not my thing. You can listen to a couple of songs here. I'd be curious to know what people think. I think their whole thing is a gimmick and they definitely seem to be fooling a lot of people. If there's something about them that I don't "get" please tell me. I really wanted to like them but they were just unwatchable. I don't think I've ever left a concert in my entire life as quickly as I left this one. The Harmonium description perfectly captured the night. "the show felt like one big large collection of was hard to negotiate when they actually shifted to the next track."

I guess people like unintelligable gibberish and don't like "songs" but for me the whole thing was one of the most self-indulgent things I've ever heard in my life. And trust me, god knows if anyone is familiar with self-indulgency it would be me. Some might say that it's my forte. And "some"might be right.

Luckily, Birdmonster, a new band out of San Francisco made my week in music. They've been gathering tremendous buzz on various MP3 blogs with their self-titled EP and though I'd heard only two songs by the group prior to coming into the show, I'd really enjoyed both and was curious to see if the band could live up their advance billing. Plus they were playing free at the Echo and being the good Jew that I am, I hear the word free and go running.

I highly recommend that you listen to this band, but while their music is good if not great on the album, their live show is particularly notable. Their energy on stage is frantic and energetic, you get the feeling from watching them that they're incredibly excited just to have the chance to play music. In my mind, there's nothing better than seeing a band before they blow up and get egos and believe their press. This band not only destroyed the house but had to deal with their cleaning up their gear, doing merch sales, everything and I'm pretty sure they'll be big one day soon, despite the fact that their name is the worst thing this side of the Arctic Monkeys (though that didn't stop them from blowing up.)

So check them out while they're still small and relatively unheard of, then later on you can make all sorts of pretentious comments about how you liked them way back when (god knows I'll inevitably say stupid things like that in a few years). And while you're at it, I also recommend checking out the other band who shared the bill with Birdmonster, Division Day.
They're still unsigned and they were also quite good, not to mention that even though I rip on all the hipsters that live in my neighborhood all the time, I have to admit that it also contains tons of people like the guys in Division Day (who happen to live in Silverlake) But for the most part, it contains mostly hipsters that look and act as obnoxious as Bar-Mitzvah DJs. Oh well, you win some. You lose some. And sometimes you just want to kick a hipster in the ribs.


At 12:27 AM, Anonymous matt a said...

AC has that 'unique' sound that so many bands now have, effectively rendering them anything but. What it basically amounts to is putting out a lot of noise. Birdmonster and Division Day both sounded pretty decent, DD sounds similar to a testosterone version of imogean heap, who I like a good deal. In a somewhat related note, I spent an eager third of a day, in various states of inebriation mind you, waiting for a Mike Jones video to come on many months ago in Atlanta. I'll spare the details..

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

The thing about Animal Collective is that they aren't derivative as they've been around for a while now and have been doing the same deal. They'e definitely unique but you're right that unique does not always equate to good.

Mike Jones eh...sounds intriguing.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Joey said...

The concert review is my favorite kind of blog post. It just lends itself to so much catharsis, you know? Doesn't it always feel good to get so many opinions out there into the open?

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I'm glad you like it. I love writing them and I love putting that memory to paper (so to speak) but I always get worried that no one reads them. Glad to know someone is. I definitely love reading them myself as well.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this the most perfect example of the average music consumer ever put in print? and the hilarious part is- its real, you actually exist! You should consider offering your services to a marketing agency who is trying to reach the most ignorant, most unsophisticated music listeners, so that they can keep pushing derivative craprock like Birdmonster into the mainstream. Seriously, they might pay you in pizza!


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