Gig’s off. Sitting underground in the library in college on a beautiful summer’s day because there were no free seats anywhere else, I got four texts to tell me. Something to do with a missed ferry. Disaster.
Eight hours later, I’m standing outside Whelans in a queue that goes around the corner, eating free chips (thank you Foggy Notions) and getting jittery for a gig that seemed semi-destined to go down in the great tradition of Dublin gig folklore. It couldn’t be anything but brilliant. That was just the energy around the place.
Seeing Animal Collective in Whelans is the kind of thing that can only happen by chance. They’re way too big under normal circumstances. Oxegen 2006 was good, but it was Oxegen. Tripod was only alright, the sound was dodgy and the singer couldn’t sing.
This time, Avey could sing. It absolutely made all the difference. It unlocks the (in my opinion) best of their back catalogue, though new stuff is Panda-heavy. But it also means that the two-vocal attack kicks in, like it should. And that’s central. It happens in new stuff like Walking Around With You and in old stuff everywhere. Avey sings, and Panda chimes in, or Panda sings and Avey murmurs under it. The layering is a big part of the charm.
Adrenaline had me trying to jump around a bit like a spa at the start, but when I stopped fucking around, it really did start being profound. It’s not a rock show, and it’s taking me a while to beat that mindset, but I’m getting there. Peacebone appeared, and it was good, but the extended Fireworks-Essplode-Fireworks-Essplode-Slowed Down Fireworks spree was one of the greatest things I have seen, full stop.
Being close enough to actually pull out plugs if you wanted to makes the experience so much more personal. You feel in the mix. It swirls around, you can see where each sound is coming from and feel the chemistry of the whole experience. No-one else could’ve almost completely ignored their two best albums and still played the best gig New Whelans has seen. The new stuff, particularly Song For Ariel and the new new one, is up there with the best stuff they’ve got.
So at 1.45, I ran for the last Nitelink to get home in time to get up for an exam. But as my friend Coady kept reminding me when I moaned to everyone I saw about it, I would have regretted it more than anything in my life if I hadn’t gone.
Picture stolen from Bobby, who also gets credit for sending the text that has already been subsumed into Temple-Bar-to-South-Circular lore: EVERYBODY TO WHELANS, I’M NOT BULLSHITTING.