It was a dicey proposition.  It could have been a five-hour round trip drive for nothing.

Psychedelic mavens Animal Collective were playing in Fayetteville, Arkansas – their first ever show in the state. I had waited too late to get tickets to the sold out show so I turned to Stubhub, a solidly shady ticket reseller where you have no contact with the seller. This would be a key point once I read the specifics on George’s Majestic Lounge website that any resold tickets had to have an email confirmation. I knew that chances were I was on the fringes of this concert, yet these things have a way of working out.

As the line to the venue door crept along, the warmth of a faint beat let me know that Animal Collective had already kicked off.  “Ain’t got time for that, the shows started,” said the doorman as he ushered us through no questions asked.  As luck would have it we were the breaking point in giving a damn about ticket verification.

I walked in to everything I hoped it would be – a pretty rare feeling. Panda Bear, Geologist and Avey Tare were set up across the front of the stage with all manner of samplers, keyboards, electric organs, mixers set up around them, occupying an individual space, while melding rhythms, beats, squawks, beeps and blips that formed new shapes and movements before disintegrating into something wholly new.


The visuals took a minute to process as I angled up the side of the packed room for better position. Behind each member of the band were large white Dadaist statues on which the intricate visual light show was projected, writhing and twisting along to the music. They had a new drummer who banged wildly and found strange pockets in the hypnotic sounds. This was a nice development as it freed up Panda Bear who typically plays drums and works samplers more toward the back of the stage.

Being about halfway familiar with the new album “Painting With” was a benefit, as I had no clue where the soundscape would detour next. It was guided by the soaring vocals of Panda Bear and the slow speak-singing switching instantly to spastic yelling of Avey Tare. At times both were harmonizing – stretching words that were rich and unintelligible then veering into a syncopated back-and-forth that was mesmerizing.

The crowd was in a frenzy down front as security kept trying to pick out someone from the happy madness happening near the stage. I eventually eased to the back of the room for a beer and to take in the encore, which started with the subdued magic and off kilter harps of “Bees” – muted blue lights and swarming oversized bees projected across the stage.  When the first notes of the new single “FloriDada” hit the crowd erupted and sang along as best they could to an Animal Collective twister.

After the show, I had that post-life affirming moment whenever you see something that’s surpasses expectation, that takes you places you had been wanting to go – when humanity as a whole goes up a few notches in your book.

“Anybody got a light?” said a sweaty pixie-haired girl in a purple skirt to no one in particular. I happened to, held it out, and asked her why she was dragged out of the show.

“For crowd surfing,” she said, inhaling the first drag deeply then slipping away quickly, wild-eyed into the night.