Thursday, March 4, 2010

Animal Collective & Danny Perez @Guggenheim, March 4th

After a lonnnng day at work, I decided to check out the one-day show, Transverse Temporal Gyrus, at the Guggenheim. Not being wholly familiar with Animal Collective, I ran with it and bought a ticket to the highly anticipated show, figuring even if it sucked rocks, at least I'd be making a donation to one of my favorite places in this fine city of ours.

If I had to make a snap judgment based on the long line before getting in, I would have guessed the show was going to be annoying, with the dopey young smokers behind me, chatting about dropping acid, and this weird dude in front of me making didgeridoo-type noises with just his mouth. I ended up standing in line for about 35 minutes before entering, checked in my coat, and rode the elevator to the 6th floor for the gradual descent down the ramp.

(More words and pics, and a video after the jump.)
Once inside, I quickly shed my frustration with the line and was able to soak in the experience. It still being early, the top held only a handful of people, and from this vantage, we could see what lay ahead -- speakers lined the inner wall along the ramp in addition to a few projectors at various points. On two of the floors by the elevator were stations with very complicated equipment that I'm not even going to pretend to know what they were.

As I made my way down, I dug the music -- ambient in nature, lacking any words or true structure. Whoever engineered the sound distribution made great use of the spiral, as sounds whipped through the speakers one by one, giving the impression of movement. Basically, the best surround sound, ever. George Lucas and his THX ain't got nothing on this setup. The music was fairly unobtrusive but at certain points, the music reverberated throughout, causing my heart to skip a beat. While many may have been disappointed by the lack of a live performance, this was no simple DJ set. I think strategically this was a good move on the team's part, since it allowed for people to absorb it all and become completely immersed in the experience rather than being drawn to a solitary point, e.g., a stage.

Not to say there wasn't something to focus on other than the arbitrary music, dancing shadows and imagery on the white canvas walls of the museum. On the ground floor, where many people seemed to linger and lay, were three mysterious masked individuals (presumably the band) who moved nary more than a slight twist of the neck or arm. It made me recall the movie "Donnie Darko" with the large rabbit-like figure looming, except this time there were three of them.

But, yeah, the true star of the performance was the building itself, with its spiraled ramp enclosing a cylinder of open space. At the top, the opaqued skylights initially let the sun warm the room, and as it gradually darkened, eventually became reflectors of colored lights and projected images. Probably the coolest part was the fact that there was no art hanging on the walls like you'd see on a normal visit to the museum so that the focus was on all the action happening inside the inner space, as well as the people lining the ramp. Very surreal, in a way, reminding me of the one good scene in "Vanilla Sky" in which the main character drives his car into a deserted Times Square and gets out and looks around, bewildered. And to throw in another lame Tom Cruise movie comparison, I also felt a little "Eyes Wide Shut" with people standing about, watching other people, and hoping for action below.

I came alone to this, seizing upon the opportunity to enjoy this without the distraction of making conversation or worrying whether someone else was having a good time. It was a blissful two hour escape for me, as I was able to unwind and get lost in my thoughts. I felt very quiet even though it was far from quiet, with a constant buzz in the air. Perhaps people were trying to make sense of it. Pretentious? Yeah, maybe. The one person who did talk to me asked me, "Is this it? Are they doing something else?" And I told him I had no fuckin' idea.

Here's a video I shot toward the end around 7pm, not that time really mattered in this place. The video probably does the whole experience very little justice, however.

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