When Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks hit the stage Thursday at the Majestic Theatre, the divide in the audience made itself clear. There were those who had been listening to Animal Collective since the band’s inception. They’re the people who listen to Sung Tongs on a weekly basis, can vibe with AnCo’s earlier, experimental work and rank Merriweather Post Pavilion somewhere in the middle of the band’s discography. They were the people who flocked closest to the stage, the ones who headbanged every time Tare screamed primally into the microphone while unleashing loud, jagged guitar chords.
Then there were those who got into Animal Collective in 2009 with the release of Merriweather—the band’s most commercially and critically successful album. They may not have heard the rest of the band’s stuff, but they kind of liked Centipede Hz and tell all their friends how cool the band is. These people stood back from the headbangers up front, taking in the show with relatively passive demeanors, realizing that, perhaps, Panda Bear is the only truly melodic aspect of Animal Collective’s whole.
This obvious divide hardly reflects upon the quality of the show. Avey Tare has always been weird, and his latest project, Slasher Flicks, is no exception. The show capitalized on the indie god’s weirdness from the get-go. White skulls flanked the three band members: Tare, Angel Deradoorian of Dirty Projectors and Jeremy Hyman of Ponytail. These skulls were lit up with strange designs emitted from a projector. No other lights were used, meaning the band members stood in darkness and the skulls shone with psychedelic colors.
Deradoorian kicked off the sonic odyssey with looped vocals that repeated to create a hypnotic wall of sound. Hyman’s drums provided a punchy backbone (I’ve rarely seen drums hit harder in my life). Tare’s straining, childlike vocals soared atop it all. The opening song, “Catchy (was Contagious),” kicked into high gear, beginning nearly an hour of delectable, psychedelic sounds.
The band followed with “Blind Babe.” On the band’s debut album, Enter the Slasher House, the song is a chaotic, propulsive sludge. In a live setting, however, the song’s massive synths and guitar chords reverberated the walls and provided an excellent, booming counterpoint to the unforgiving rhythms underneath. Similarly, Deradoorian’s vocals were much more pronounced in a live setting. On the album, her vocals often struggle to make themselves heard in the gumbo of noises.
The band did little interacting with the audience, only occasionally saying, “Thank you,” between songs. This didn’t matter; for a band that doesn’t use stage lights during its set, the lack of banter was perhaps to be expected.
The closest the entire crowd came to dancing came during “Little Fang,” the album’s main single and by far the grooviest song in the band’s small oeuvre. “The Outlaw” followed, and the song’s sinister spaghetti western vibes complemented the dark lighting palette onstage.
The full concert covered all 11 songs from the group’s album. After the short set, the band came back onstage for a short encore. The concert ended with an energetic (and loud!) rendition of “Strange Colores.” The band quickly exited the stage. It was a small concert, but for a band with such a small body of work, this was just fine. It was strange, and that’s all the crowd could have hoped for.