On a bustling Monday evening riding the tail end of July, an electric crowd in Oakland's Fox Theater stood hollering with eyes wide open, entranced by visual artist and musician Lonnie Holley's otherworldly take on rock and roll. Holley was joined on stage by a trombone player and guitarist who lifted his lyrics above and beyond the balcony, which addressed feelings of interconnectedness and called out the current discordant state of American society.

His song, "I Woke Up in a F****d-Up America" from his recently-released album, MITH, dug into the sweaty skin of the huddled-together audience who continued to pass joints and sway, diving into a flurry of feelings as encouraged by Holley. He created his own kaleidoscopic sound that at times mimicked falling rainwater, combined with flashes of thunderous yelps and crisp clicks. Luxuriating in the positive vibes that amassed, he reflected on how Otis Redding must have felt while writing the famed, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and acknowledged the Bay's rare beauty while thanking the crowd for the opportunity to perform amongst such a robustly creative community.

Holley's vibrant performance paved the way for Animal Collective, who casually walked onto the decadent Fox Theater stage, alit with pools of indigo, and absorbed screams from clamoring fans, some of whom fell to their knees in gratitude while others simply raised their hands and let the sounds of Sung Tongs cascade over them.

Immediately, the crowd's bodies began to breathe as one movement, with some people going as far as interpretively dancing and making physical room to expand upon any motion that fit the torrent of tones colliding into their consciousness via Avey Tare and Panda Bear.


Panda Bear and Avey Tare (photo: Jacob Romero)

The audience experienced a range of emotions with the transfer of pace and melody between the subitaneous "Who Could Win a Rabbit" and the majestically unhurried "The Softest Voice." I found myself often closing my eyes in an attempt to sift through all of the sounds that were enveloping me. This stripped-down rendition of Sung Tongs that contained mostly acoustics and sounds the duo crafted with their mouths, gave the heavily produced album an even more visceral, gutted feel.

Despite the immense variety of animalistic noises, song, and pluck of guitar strings, I never felt overwhelmed by all that was happening. It seemed as though every sound had its place, and those places were carved meticulously by Animal Collective, who, by the middle of performing their 2004 record, Sung Tongs, I realized had created their own language that surpasses label or even understanding.

Large scale psychedelic tapestries strung upstage for much of the show and provided a fitting backdrop to an album that invokes imagination and mysticism. After Avey Tare and Panda Bear finished performing Sung Tongs to a horde of experimental-pop hungry 20-somethings and beyond, they remained on stage and played several bonus songs, keeping the momentum alive. By the end of their multidimensional performance, a huge part of me wanted to deconstruct all that I had just experienced, but in actuality, all I could do was smile.

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