Hurwitz tried to lure Animal Collective here shortly after the album dropped but says the group was in no rush. “That’s why they are who they are,” he says with a shrug.
When Animal Collective finally takes the stage, the lighting is dark blue and the stage is decorated with crystalline stalagmites, vines of lights and a giant, rainbow-tiled skull, like something out of “Goonies” or “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.”
For 90 minutes, the foursome play almost all new, unfamiliar, untitled material. There are weird waltzes and doo-wop tunes and klezmer-ish romps, all made slippery and mysterious with improvisation.
As ever, who knows how it’s made. You can see Brian Weitz, a.ka. Geologist, pushing sampler buttons. You can see Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, pounding on a drum kit. But the music still seems to come from somewhere else. Lennox and Portner’s voices are swaddled in so many effects, it’s as if you can hear their words before you see their lips move. Fans’ faces on the Jumbotron are squinty and contemplative, their tender teenage brain tissue being gently rearranged.
When the band actually plunges into “Brother Sport,” a song that everyone knows, the concrete floor of the general admission area turns into a moonbounce. Up on the lawn, fans sway like sea anemones while bros on the perimeter grind up against phantom dance partners.
Two other “Merriweather” songs make it into the set — “Summertime Clothes” and “Taste” — but they’re torqued into new shapes, new textures. The new stuff is almost entirely sung by Portner, who thanks the audience — the venue was nearly two-thirds full — with an awed grin.
“It’s sweet to be here,” he says.
After one encore, the spell is broken by harsh fluorescent house lights. “Go home,” they seem to say, “and wash that stuff off your face.”