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It’s been nearly a decade since Animal Collective last played Columbus. Back then, the group’s popularity, outside of what felt like a secret cognoscenti, was just starting to peak. On that balmy May night at the Wexner Center I described the proceedings as “beautifully grotesque,” a happening that invited everyone including the psychedelic pop faithful, [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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It’s been nearly a decade since Animal Collective last played Columbus. Back then, the group’s popularity, outside of what felt like a secret cognoscenti, was just starting to peak. On that balmy May night at the Wexner Center I described the proceedings as “beautifully grotesque,” a happening that invited everyone including the psychedelic pop faithful, the Molly enthusiasts, new-age hippies, and heaps of curious co-eds to share in the spirit of musical freedom rather than just the music itself. Little did the crowd know the band were workshopping infamous songs that wouldn’t surface on record until years later—a practice in their live shows that lives on today—and experimenting with loops and patterns that might have only survived in that ephemeral moment. Dig deep enough and you can find a wobbly bootleg of the show in question and let the flashbacks begin.

It’s not just hyperbole to say that Animal Collective exist outside the boundaries of pop. Meshing junk-drawer reggae, cartoonish electronica, primal beat, and esoteric harmonies, theirs is a sonic playground where familial rock tropes mutate in vibrant, unheard, new directions.

This month brings Painting With…, yet another confounding listen from the laboratory of Animal Collective’s core members, Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and the Geologist. Though their stature couldn’t be any higher, it’s a record that refuses to bend for commercial pursuits. In fact, as euphoric and melodically rich as songs like “Floridada” and “Golden Gal” unravel, there’s a return to that freedom, that spirit, which birthed the band’s untamed beginnings.

I recently spoke with Tare about those intangibles that have made Animal Collective such an anomaly in modern music and how and where they gather the inspiration to continue to surprise their obsessive fans.

You guys have your hands in so many different things, live all over the world, for Painting With…, what was the impetus that prompted you to join forces? All the stuff that we do is just part of the greater picture that is our lives. Animal Collective is just one small piece of that puzzle, but it’s always hovering around and it’s something that’s on our minds a lot of the time. It’s pretty crucial that we all have our own things going on and have the freedom to do that but as long as we are friends and are inspired to make music then we plan on getting together to make records or some sort of project.

The album is decidedly poppy, bright, topical, but also loose and organic. Was there an intention at the start to return to how you created in the earliest days of the band? For me personally, this record just marks a more playful bright time in my life. I think the last couple records I was a part of and the songs I wrote were very deeply introspective and I was using that music to work out a lot of emotions. This makes for a very specific kind of song in a way which can be awesome but I don’t think either [Panda Bear] or I wanted to write those kind of songs for this record.  Topically I think it’s pretty serious, actually, and even if some of the imagery is more playful—like in “Floridada”—the things we are singing about mean a lot to us and are even a little problematic. The record was also really fun to make and I think often that experience surfaces in the music.

In a recent interview you said there “was a heart in all Animal Collective records,” because the music of Animal Collective is so individual and unique. It would be interesting to know how you, no matter how esoteric, describe that sound? I wish I could. Free is the best way to describe it for me. And not “free-form” because we have a very definitive form. I think it’s free of expectation and free of being boxed into a specific genre even if that means some people are going to hate it. We are inspired by so much that it’s hard to pin it down and it changes.  But I also think it’s the sound of our friendship, which is very deep. And we feel free and open with each other and so it naturally translates into the music.

I think your fans have that same expectation from the band on stage. Animal Collective is known as an “experience” live and that’s something that is rare for audiences these days. How do you evolve to keep that standard in top form when you start each tour? There’s always a little bit of a challenge. For the tour coming up it seemed like it might even be more difficult because we haven’t played any of the record on stage. But now that we are playing the songs together—at least in practice—it seems like everything is really flowing together. At the end of the day, I think it’s really something we just love doing. As much as I love individual songs from bands, when I go see them live I hope I take a bit more of a special experience from it. You can sit home and listen to our record anytime. Music and environment have always been very attached for us and so we love to work with how sounds and songs are going to translate at different venues. It has the possibility of always being different and so we just accept that and strive to have new experiences for ourselves each night.

There are certainly parallels with the Grateful Dead, given the improvisation of live shows and the community of tape traders. You were the first band to sample a Dead song. Do you think the parallel or comparison is apt? Well sonically it’s all a bit different. They have way more chops then we do and their improvisations are very indicative of that. But they have been one of my favorite bands since I was in fifth grade, so it’s definitely in there. The first time I saw them play live it was one of those life-changing moments where you experience music presented in a completely new way. It has a lot to do with the environment link I was talking about. I think similar to us, the Dead understood the variations and the sort of “benefits” that the live setting and any given venue can provide. I think we are probably all people that are just very open to letting things happen in the live realm.

Now that you’ve been a band through a cycle where you have a wave of artists influenced by Animal Collective, is there any new music that provides inspiration to the music you are making in the present? Kendrick Lamar. 


Animal Collective will play Newport Music Hall on Friday, February 16. For music and more information visit myanimalhome.net

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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