If Muppets Could Drone

High-concept experimentalists undermine the academic, and the post-collegiate too

Animal Collective

Bowery Ballroom

August 15

There’s a song I don’t think they played, but they might’ve, in some unrecognizable form, on Animal Collective’s May CD, Sung Tongs, called “College,” and it goes like this: “Nnnnnnnnnaaaaaahhhhhh-uuuuuuhhhhhhh-uh”—those are the vocals—”shlurp-sizzzzzzzzzle-sputter”—that’s the processed feedback (or whatever) sounds. It ends with the stretched, swelling line—very Kanye—”You don’t have to go to college.” Which is funny, because as I remember it, Avey Tare (the Collective’s frontman; Panda Bear is his partner) studied music at NYU while I was going there. Those loans can be tiring to pay back, it’s true. But there’s a bigger point. The Collective’s studious, high-concept experimentation collapses the academy from the inside, the way only insiders can. Free the music and your mind will follow.

The four people (two on guitar, one on real and electronic drums, another heavily manipulating it all) constituting the Collective live even appeared to be liberated from the post-collegiate scene’s fashion. They all wore sloppy T-shirts, Avey sported a cap with a big button awkwardly pinned to it, and the guy turning knobs cross-legged on the floor had a miner’s light askew on his head. Avey, with his short, tight curls and stocky, jerking body, reminded me of Animal (from the Muppets), but also of Lou Reed (from the Velvet Underground). Animal’s Collective definitely have a thing for drones, but they aren’t droning to make it seem like they couldn’t care less, to seem cool or nihilistic. They’re simulating nature’s insect symphonies, rustling leaves, and howling winds rather than channeling the cold electricity powering amps.

Avey may resemble a new Reed, but his yelps were anything but. At one point he massacred Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (subbing in, among others, the words “I like you”—how college relationship is that?); he tossed and punctured and twisted melodies, sometimes brilliantly, while somebody fooled with the other half of his double-tracked voice. The rhythms were grade-school tribal; shlurps and piercing waves abounded. At one telling point, they played samples of children playing. NICK CATUCCI

Pretty Things and Gore Gore Girls say the end has no end

Little Steven’s International Underground Garage Festival

Randalls Island

August 14

Braving drizzle and impending hurricane, more than 40 groups descended on Randalls Island Saturday just to prove garage rock is eternal. The first six hours’ worth of bands were allotted 10-minute sets, which translated into two songs, sometimes even one, and after 35 mini-performances, the music became muddled, like a best-of mix tape come to life. But one thing got clearer and clearer: the festival’s standout offering was the age variation of the bands and audience.

The 12-hour lineup brought together bands from the ’50s through the ’00s as if this were a perfectly natural thing to do. And although you could have shot a Just for Men hair-color commercial with all the fellas trying to hide their gray with copper-hued coifs, Father Time didn’t get the last laugh. Pop may still have a youth fetish, but Steve Van Zandt succeeded in demonstrating that rock ‘n’ roll has no age requirement or expiration date. Seminal but overlooked bands like the soul-shakin’ Chocolate Watchband, the jump-pop Creation, and the blues-rock Pretty Things relived their glory days, while for Gore Gore Girls, the Raveonettes, and the Strokes, these are the glory days.

Some artists perfectly blurred the line between then and now—especially the later ones, who got the longer sets they deserved. Bo Diddley cruised in like a prized jalopy, polished and beaming with his box guitar and soul-crafted blues. But he ended his set by rapping Sugarhill Gang–style and shook his tail feather to show he’s forever down. The New York Dolls and the headlining Iggy Pop and the Stooges slipped into form as if the years didn’t exist and Max’s Kansas City still did. With fit girlymen David Johansen and Iggy Pop prowling like heathen Adonises, they played loud, hard, and naughty, flaunting the feral gumption that made them punk icons. During “No Fun,” an ass-crack-baring Iggy threw a fit until security let the crowd join him onstage. A swirl of sweaty bodies flounced around as the festival climaxed in a gorgeous frenzy, celebrating the rock of ageless. JEANNE FURY

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