Better than... shrooming while watching the Emmys.
The Hollywood Bowl is not the venue for working out new shit, that is if you don't count Herbie Hancock's unfortunate ode to peace last month. Barry Manilow did not show up on the Fourth of July looking to test out new material. Anita Baker hit quick and frequent with her radio jams. Nonetheless, last night's bill at Hollywood Bowl's World Festival dealt largely in the unfamiliar, for better and worse.
The night opened with Huun Huur Tu, a Siberian throat singing quartet that would make any man with an Ethnomusicology degree feel socially relevant (Class of 2003!). The group dug deep into the overtone hums of the genre, creating an amazing blend of low and high that is unlike any other genre. Their traditional set was weirdly divided by producer Carmen Rizzo, who provided electronic, sand-swept sounds, reminiscent of a Sting album. Thankfully Rizzo was only up briefly before allowing the quartet to close out their set with an archaic precursor to the electronic sounds: drones, overtones and swagger.
Hometown hero Flying Lotus surfaced shortly thereafter. Has any performer on the Hollywood Bowl stage tried so hard to be anonymous? Lotus presented a set of mostly new material from behind a projection screen, rarely saying anything throughout his set. Granted that projection screen, run by the incomparable Strangeloop, was immensely engaging: Swirling around a table-bound Lotus, the projections took on the power of an Iron Man suit, taking his otherwise stationary body through a maze of effects. A cage was built around him, shit got 3-D for a minute, and it otherwise resembled the best laser light show you've ever seen.
The bass-rattling sounds he was generating, meanwhile, were from another world. There were very few samples that could be effectively Shazamed; bleeps and bloops fuzzed through the bowels of the crowd as a steady bass kept the beat but it all emanated from his two hands, whether through laptop, sampler or whatever else lay before him. Nonetheless, the combination of sights and sounds had most of the crowd pretty satisfied and it wasn't even 8:30.
"Where my grandma at?" he asked at one point. When he dug into a sample of the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" that the crowd rose to their feet; they also recognized "Mercy," but it was his new songs from his upcoming album Until the Quiet Comes -- look for our feature profile of him in the Weekly next week -- that really had folks shitting their pantaloons.
Animal Collective, surrounded by a stage that resembled teeth or toes (depending upon the lighting), situated themselves behind their instruments and mostly stayed there. Unlike Flying Lotus, a light show wasn't enough to carry the quartet and for much of the set, the audience sat awaiting something resembling a hit. Animal Collective worked through largely new material. As they pummeled through their industrial dance, the half-shell's lights flickered like a lysergic Looney Tunes opening while two energetic folks down front attempted to land a psychedelic plane with their glowing swords.
It wasn't until about 45 minutes into the set that the audience sprung alive, cheering for popular tracks that included "Brothersport," "Peacebone" and "My Girls." The band closed strong, giving the ravers and the sufficiently stoned something to dance for. Even vocalist Avery Tare sidled out from behind his keyboard for the fist-pumping "Peacebone" to give a throaty shout.
It was a daring bill for the Hollywood Bowl that seemed to divide more than it united. Flying Lotus on stage at the Hollywood Bowl was a major triumph for the L.A. electronic scene while Animal Collective seemed fairly unfazed by the enormity of the gig. Huun Huur Tu set just the right chord in their appreciation and unwillingness to compromise with the audience. Who knew?
Animal Collective/Flying Lotus @ LA Weekly