The Animal Collective
chaps roll up for a splendid evening of tunes at Baltimore’s Ottobar on Sept. 12.
Text & Photos by Logan
A lot has changed for Noah Lennox (pictured
above) since he left home.
For starters, the precocious kid
from Roland Park goes by Panda Bear now. Long gone from the 410 suburbs, he
currently lives in the picturesque Iberian city of Lisbon with his fashion designer wife and two
kids of his own. And perhaps most importantly, the little basement band he
started more than a decade ago with some other Waldorf kids has, for better or
worse, become the face of American indie rock in the Pitchfork era –
warts, and animal masks, and all.
So it was hardly surprising to find the Ottobar sold
out and already stuffed for Sunday’s quixotic, but nonetheless entertaining
openers DJ Dog Dick and Prince Rama.
And yet, there was still cause for concern.
From his much maligned performance at Pitchfork‘s
bash in July to his only slightly better showing in Los Angeles at FYF Fest
earlier this month, Mr. Bear’s been charged with a slew of invective not
normally hauled at the Collective: listless, non-descript, torpid, and to put
it boorishly, just plain bor-ing. Moreover, to this day, none of the species in
the AnCo kingdom has been able to engender universal acclaim as a live, solo
performer – thus lending credence to that whole sum-greater-than-parts jive.
Regardless, as great an album like Person Pitch is, maybe it’s just not
meant to be heard in a 400-person capacity club. Like a lot of what passes as
indie rock nowadays, it’s as if the lion’s share of work is indeed done at home
a priori, with the live, in-person aspect nothing more than a ready-made
cooking show of mashed pedals and turns on the knob.
To his credit though, Deakin, née Josh Dibb, proved
to be a most excellent sous-chef for his headlining friend. Lennox and
Dibb have been pals ever since a second grade Baltimore County
classroom, and in the end, this pairing ultimately proved a better, more
complementary choice than any Avey Tare or Geologist coupling. Truth be told,
Deakin is the real native son here. It was back in January that he treated the
Ottobar to his coming out party as a soloist – a gesture not soon forgotten
judging by the hometown hoard’s welcoming back. And while his catalog,
understandably, remains a little thin, the sounds he created therein were as
dense and as full-figured as anything Panda Bear would later conjure. And for
at least twenty minutes anyways, there was only one Deacon of Charm City.
Even the blogosphere needs a Sabbath, so alas, there
was little buzz regarding what to expect for Panda Bear’s prodigal gig. Not
more than twenty-four hours earlier, Lennox had played Governor’s Island while
just across the bay in front of him, the Manhattan skyline was all aglow thanks
to Mayor Bloomberg’s 9/11 memorial. In Baltimore
however, the fireworks were at the rear, care of ODDSAC director Danny
Perez and his appropriately psychedelic projections (and expectedly reckless
smoke machine operation). Compared to the FX découpage of old staples
like “Comfy In Nautica” and “Song For Ariel,” the newer fare such as “Tomboy”
and “Slow Motion” sounded much more focused and straightforward. What this new
found clarity does, of course, is further flaunt the one quality that none of
the other guys in his day band can best him on – that voice. A curious timbre
that’s both siren and clarion, Panda Bear’s voice could rightfully stand on its
own. Perch it atop an intricate nest of guitar, synth and sample, and it sounds
even more right. But be careful. Should he give it just the right amount of
broken earnestness – as he so delicately did with “Ponytail” – Panda Bear’s voice
might just render your own mute.
And that would be a shame. For then you couldn’t
cheer one of Baltimore’s most welcome returns
since the Colts came back from Cleveland as the
Ravens in 1996…the same year that Noah Lennox left for Boston.