Review: Animal Collective get psychedelic to help Tampa's Ritz Ybor get through election night
What does a concert held on election night — especially one as chaotic as this year’s — look like?
That was the question coming into Animal Collective’s show Tuesday night at the Ritz Ybor, a much-awaited return to the Tampa Bay area for the group that coincided with the end of the 2016 presidential election.
In some ways, it was a fitting spot for the Baltimore indie band, who have not been shy about their politics and whose member Brian “Geologist” Weitz once worked for Congress. The same day as their Tampa show, the group released a statement urging their fans to vote for Hillary Clinton over a third-party candidate, citing Florida’s role in the 2000 presidential race.
And among the usual lit-up phones snapping photos and video, you could also see several audience members refreshing election forecasts. Yet for the most part, fans engrossed themselves in the music, offering a moment of respite before reentering a turbulent reality.
Much of that excitement came from the fact that Animal Collective hasn’t visited the Tampa Bay area since a 2009 State Theatre show with Black Dice. That was coming off of Merriweather Post Pavilion, which remains their greatest critical and commercial success.
Fitting their growing profile, Animal Collective’s live show has become a pretty enormous undertaking, featuring psychedelic light backdrops, large Cubist sculptures and modern art paintings. (In contrast, opener Actress played in the dark barely visible and sitting, a suitably minimalist backdrop for the British producer’s sparse electronic music.)
Much of the group’s setlist came from their new album Painting With. Not unlike M83’s Junk, also released this year, the album follows some of their most accessible work with a more experimental, frankly kind of goofy at times release that proved more divisive.
Yet if the crowd was disappointed by the relatively tight focus on their new album, they didn’t show it (save for one brief, failed chant for them to play My Girls.) The loopy love letter to the Sunshine State FloriDada and the Golden Girls-sampling Golden Gal in particular drew big crowd reactions.
There were a few deep dives into the catalog, perhaps most notably Pride and Fight off of 2002’s Hollinndagain, a rare live album of the group from 2001. Allegedly it was the first time the song had been played live in 15 years.
Not much mention was made of the election, except for Avey Tare (sporting a Florida-appropriate alligator shirt) encouraging the crowd to enjoy themselves and ignore what was going on in the outside world. Considering that being a fan of the group has become a shorthand of sorts for a certain brand of progressive hipster, Donald Trump’s victory would’ve unlikely been considered a joyous moment by anyone present.
The band’s last song before their encore was FloriDada, which the residents of the song’s namesake responded to with delirious joy. It was hard to separate this cheery Florida moment from the national one occurring simultaneously, where the tight race between Clinton and Trump in the state was being watched with tension and frustration.
America has just gone through an incredibly divisive election, with the rifts in the electorate showing no signs of dissipating. While there will no shortage of calls for political action in the coming days, it will also be important to practice self-care, whether that’s being with family and friends, watching a movie or listening to an album you like. For many fans who went to Animal Collective’s show Tuesday, this is where that memory will reside.
-- Jimmy Geurts