Still, as inscrutable as it often was, Animal Collective puts on a captivating show. Their four tables (cluttered with effects, mixers, samplers, and implements for whacking scattered drums), draped in white fabric, lit up with frenetic rainbows as a massive white orb overhead caught spiraling projections. As a three piece, each of them tended to their stations (Geologist with his now iconic forehead-mounted flashlight), occasionally hopping around or arcing back to hit a particularly strident “Whoooooaa-oh-oh.” Animal Collective have the unique ability to indulge in ambience for its potential, rather than rely on it as interlude. Songs like “Guy’s Eyes” and “Fireworks” pulled themselves into 10-minute sprawls of uncertain ecstasy, and when a pulse — distant and deep — crept up within the noise, the entire audience bounced their wish into fulfillment: bodies started getting passed around, plumes of smoke pushed into the projection beams, little pockets of the most passive moshing ever recorded broke out, and Geologist rewarded everyone with a beat you could hear.

An hour and a half had gone by before I realized an hour and a half had gone by — so I can only assume, despite a glaring absence of lingering melodies, moving moments, or striking memories (I’m telling you there was a lot of smoke) that I do indeed enjoy this band. But the Animal Collective experience seems far less reliant on understanding entirely than it is on forgetting entirely — and if that’s not the stamp of a jam band, I’m not sure what is.

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Related: Review: Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Photos: Animal Collective at House of Blues (2009), The Big Hurt: The decade ahead, More more >
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