For a band with such well-established indie cred, Animal Collective played a surprisingly, disappointingly, mainstream show at the Prospect Park Bandshell on Tuesday.
The set was polished and, therefore, bereft of the unabashed energy that characterizes their best work. The band did not banter, they minded their interludes and played on a stage appropriately bedazzled to reflect their experimental, neo-psychedelic meme. This meant, on the upside, that beloved songs (such as "Brothersport," "Summertime Clothes," and "Did You See the Words," -- although some, like "My Girls" and "Fireworks," were noticeably absent) were played in their entirety, to an adoring audience. And on the downside, it meant that only the interludes were musically surprising.
Which is not to say that in performing, Animal Collective undermine their album successes. The musicians are undeniably talented, and their prowess shone through their performance. But the bands that put on the best shows are those that experiment onstage -- that riff on recorded versions of their songs to let the audience in on a deeper level of sound. Animal Collective, apparently, is not that type of band.
The underwhelming show, however, put the venue itself at center stage.
The Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival, housed each year at the Prospect Park Bandshell, has been put on each summer since 1979. Performers run the gamut from local dance troupes and choirs (who play for free) to better known groups and musicians (who, for the most part, do not). While other outdoor venues have fairly defined characteristics -- SummerStage, located on the east side of Central Park, is fittingly strict, and the currently out-of-commission McCarren Park Pool is a veritable haven for hipsters -- the bandshell is a chameleon of sorts, adapting in tone and vibe to the show at hand.
At the Animal Collective concert, for better or worse, that vibe was festival.
The still-oppressive evening heat, the long lines for food and booze and even longer lines for bathrooms, coupled with the mediocre show and restless audience, made the (roughly) 90-minute set feel like it was in the center of a day-long festival. And the aesthetically-self aware crowd, the barefooted pixies and their bare-shouldered beaus, didn't hurt.
But festivals also offer the opportunity to listen to music sans expectation, in a virtual vacuum of time and of space. And though Animal Collective's show may not have provided the arresting rhythm I had hoped for, it provided a lilting soundtrack to a semi-conscious state on the grass, in a place that no longer felt quite like Brooklyn. And there's something to be said for that.