It was 90 degrees and humid in Columbia, Md. and the Merriweather Post Pavilion parking lot was filled with flannel-clad tailgaters nursing cans of beer and half-naked hipsters running around playing Frisbee.
An hour before the gates were scheduled to open, a line had already formed. In four hours, these die-hard fans would see experimental psychedelic group Animal Collective on the stage after which they named their critically-acclaimed 2009 album.
When the doors opened, fans eagerly piled into the pavilion and were soon treated to opening acts by psychedelic indie performer Deradoorian and experimental noise group Black Dice. Both openers garnered applause and approval from the crowd as they waited patiently for Animal Collective.
As the summer sun set, a dark blue light bathed the stage, and four shadowy figures emerged and took their spots among strings of lights, crystal stalagmites and a gigantic stained-glass skull.
The Baltimore-based foursome played a 15-song set composed primarily of unreleased, unfamiliar and unnamed material, with songs from recent releases woven in. The new songs were elusive and mysterious, as symmetrical harmonies burst forth from amplifiers seemingly without a point of origin.
Unconvinced spectators looked on, wondering if these electrical bursts of sound came from a source other than Brian Wilcox (aka Geologist), Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear), Josh Dibb (aka Deakin) and David Portner (aka Avery Tare). Wilcox was illuminated by his signature headlamp pressing sampler buttons while Lennox pummeled a personalized drum kit, Dibb strummed a guitar and pressed loop buttons and Portner alternated between playing guitar and keyboards and producing an array of vocal pitches accompanied by pre-recorded effects.
Even older songs sounded different, reshaped. During the set, Animal Collective played three songs from Merriweather Post Pavilion, including singles "Brothersport" and "Summertime Clothes." These songs, however, had evolved, with new composition and character that complimented the rough new material.
Animal Collective played their set entirely in their own world. Only a handful of times did a member offer a "thank you" to the crowd after applause or pause to introduce a song. The band seemed entwined with the music, improvising extended verses and endings for most of their songs.
After a 90-minute set and one encore, the fluorescent house lights turned on and fans left the pavilion speechless and sweating, the smiles on their paint-smeared faces saying all they needed to say.