What I Saw: Animal Collective and Danny Perez at the Guggenheim


Up until Animal Collective’s most recent album, Merriweather Post Pavillion, the band for the most part operated outside the parameters by which popular bands typically operated within. Aggressive, recursive, and sometimes off-putting, their catalogue is a long example of experimentation and evolution. It took the gentle urging of a dedicated fan for me to enjoy them and, for the first hour of the event, I was reminded of my reaction to the band before I went through the process of getting it, a term that is lightly and frequently tossed around in and by zealous fan bases but has for its part some merit.

Entering the crush of the ground level crowd, I made my way toward the performers and was struck dead in place by an industrial sledgehammer sound whipping around the speakers. It moved like a cyclone and gave me the sensation of being at the inverted apex of an auditory tornado. Then, it dissipated back into the air, as if it was the combustion and product of unseen molecules colliding together.

An hour and a half in, I was still not sure if the performers were the band members or hired hands. I spotted Friend and his friend on the third level rotunda edge.  They seem casually comfortable, smiles and arm taps and whatnot.

The performers were each elevated two feet off of the ground and wearing white rubbery plastic masks and robes. In their movements and posture, the performers seemed like robots about to run out of batteries. They adjusted their arms and hand positions with slight movements. Their heads are slowly and deliberately pointed down and then up, from one side and to the other. Crowd members are engaging the performers in prolonged eye staring contests and the performers have yet to loose. I moved to get up closer myself, and strike up a conversation with a guy who turned out to be band member Geologist’s brother. He says he thought the performers were the band, but he wasn’t sure. His brother, he said, was incredibly vague about the specifics of the performance. If it was the band, it was an impressive feat: After the overwhelming initial demand for the evening performance, the museum announced a matinee show. Whoever it was, they’d been standing in one spot for close to four and a half hours.

Geologist’s brother spotted a gap in the costume of the performer closest to us and said that the performer is indeed his brother. He could see his beard.

Sean Patrick Cooper is the author of a lot of work that's not quite done. His writing is forthcoming, ideally, from multiple locations and has appeared, thankfully, in The Millions, 3 Quarks Daily, and PopMatters, among other venues. He is online at www.seanpatrickcooper.com. More from this author →