My friend and I tumbled out of the car onto the highway unscathed, after ricocheting across three lanes of traffic. We remained unscathed as we distanced ourselves from the oncoming vehicles and the car whose front left side was crumpled and torn, the whole thing filled with a nasty haze from the airbags and all the sound around us muffled. During the crash — which happened exactly as slowly as most people tell you it will — and after, we kept looking over to make sure the other was okay, incredulous as to how we not only survived but made it through with just a bit lip. We had the car towed, found transportation from the halfway point between Appleton and Chicago, and — seven hours later — saw Avey Tare of Animal Collective play a solo show.
To say the preceding events changed the way I experienced the concert is an understatement. The pairing of the two events — one near-death and the other both warm and inspiring, breathing creativity into me — was supremely surreal. I highly doubt I will ever experience something like that again, and still cannot believe that it all happened in the span of several hours. Writing this a few days afterwards, it is still no less of a challenge to separate the two. As my consistent readers will know, I already have intense experiences while hearing live music, so imagine how I felt, listening to a creator of music that has been close to me since early high school and is a primary reason I write my own songs after walking away, completely safe from a crash in which I could have been crushed or killed. It’s a rush of emotion, to say the least.
When I arrived at the concert, my brain was still processing all of this, but as the music started, the feeling melted away into the deep parts of my mind — save for a few moments where I could not believe I was finally seeing Tare and moments of not believing that I was there at all. While the previous events simmered in my subconscious, I was able to relax and take in the subdued, raw electroacoustic music before me, an intense appreciation for it permeating everything.
The sold-out show at The Hideout in Chicago was in support of Tare’s most recent solo album, “Eucalyptus.” Despite the maximalist, highly-composed bounce on Animal Collective’s “Painting With,” a group effort that came out about a year and a half before, “Eucalyptus” shows Tare’s more personal, peaceful and emotional side, a side listeners have not seen much of in recent Animal Collective projects (save for their “Meeting of the Waters” EP, from the duo of Tare and Geologist). “Eucalyptus” and its subsequent shows have allowed Tare to take a step back and bask in the beauty of his life at the moment.
Tare went into this content mindset — and its matching sound — effortlessly. The energy here was in stark contrast to recent group releases, instead harkening back to Animal Collective’s earlier days with freak folk albums such as “Campfire Songs,” “Sung Tongs” and “Feels.” Electronics were mellow for much of the show, instead letting amplified, but nearly always unaffected, guitar be the focus, along with vocals only manipulated by some ping-ponged delay. In the moments in which electronics
were in the foreground, they had much more room to breathe than Tare had allowed them for a while; he patiently altered loops and soundscapes, slightly and gradually tweaking certain components to his liking. It was inspiring to watch him create. There was thoughtfulness to the music but it did not override the power of spontaneity and freeness that he conjured up with intricate (but not overbearing) electronics, minimal guitar and honeyed, commanding vocals.
Tare played for about an hour and a half with few breaks — almost always using segues built from electronics to transition between most of the songs — but it was difficult to tell that that much time had passed. He stretched the songs from the album, usually between three and six minutes, to make them feel much longer by pulling at the set as a whole and placing a powerful weight on his vocals when they were present. When they were not, disorienting but calming electronics washed over, creating worlds and rhythms that could have felt out of place in comparison to the simple, folky guitar and singing, but never did. Visuals also worked hand in hand with his music, building upon Tare’s frequent practice of associating sound with sight due to his synesthesia. It was unclear if they were created live, but they were almost definitely intentional in how they were paired with the music — whether Tare pulled inspiration from them, or they were live and pulled inspiration from him. To experience such artful and organic visuals in conjunction with genuine music during a show in this setting was a much-needed departure from a typical concert lacking playful visuals.
This is a concert I will never look back at as just a concert, and I am beyond grateful to have experienced it.