Animal Collective: On the ones and twos at Escobar

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Over the last 14 years, Animal Collective has released music ranging from pop to experimental electronic compositions. The band is currently on a national tour and performing DJ sets at clubs, including Aspen's Escobar.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: Animal Collective DJ Set

Where: Escobar

When: Friday, Dec. 5, 11 p.m.

Cost: $15

Tickets and more info:

Animal Collective is nothing if not unpredictable. The Baltimore-based band has zigged and zagged over the last 14 years between gorgeous pop songs and avant-garde electronic compositions, live instrumentation and dense digital production.

So it’s fitting that the acclaimed indie giants are coming to Aspen somewhat under the radar, playing a DJ set in the cozy underground confines of Escobar.

The A-list booking for the little 170-capacity Hyman Ave. night club came, mostly, by luck, said Escobar co-owner Ian Perry. He has a handful of childhood friends who’ve moved their way up in the music business, including some of Animal Collective’s management team.

The band is current on tour doing DJ sets in cities like Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Baltimore and Denver. Perry put out an invite to bring them to Escobar, and got a “yes” back.

“I was just lucky enough to have a few friends in the music industry, and the [Animal Collective] guys wanted to visit Aspen,” he said. “I can’t pay them what they’re worth, but it was an opportunity to do something fresh and new.”

He’s looking at the show as a “welcome back party,” as the club opens for winter and seasonal Aspenites make their way back into town.

“I just thought it would be fun to do a big opening season party,” he said.

Perry and Escobar co-owner Ryan Chadwick, with the club entering its fifth year in Aspen, are aiming to mix up their DJ offerings. Most of the clubs in town do an open format, with pop music mash-ups from local DJs, and most nights that’s’ also what you’ll find at Escobar, with high season stops from Denver artists like DJ Shake One and DJ Bedz. Perry suggested that this winter — as he and Chadwick open a second downtown location in the restaurant/bar the Grey Lady — they hope to showcase artists with more individualistic styles, across more genres.

They hinted at the new direction this summer, with a series of gigs by Los Angeles-based DJ Cisco Adler, who brought high-profile guests like rappers Riff Raff and Mickey Avalon to the club. Those nights ended up being more about the party than the music, though.

“Those were more appearances than performances,” Perry said with a laugh.

That’s always the risk with going to see an artist you like perform a DJ set. A musician may just let a playlist go and stand behind a laptop sipping drinks and talking to friends (James Murphy’s lackluster DJ set in Aspen a few years back comes to mind), or they may put on a thoughtful show that gives fans insight into their influences and interests (Moby’s DJ sets at Belly Up, for instance).

The Animal Collective set promises to be worth listening to.

In July, when the band announced a nine-city DJ tour — it ended up being longer when they added Aspen, Denver and other stops — they shared a recording of a May DJ set in Los Angeles online. It included a laid back, danceable mix of samples and an array of songs ranging from obscure world music to hip-hop infused Hilger Czukay compositions, electronica from Black Dice, Joy Orbison, Ashra to remixes of rock bands like Peyote alongside Animal Collective tracks like “Summertime Clothes,” from the band’s 2009 breakthtough album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” They shared another — completely different, but equally interesting — set in August from Miami.

“It’ll be stripped-down, with simple production,” Perry said. “And they’re going to play what they want to play.”

The DJ tour includes Animal Collective members Avey Tare, Geologist and Deakin, with the fourth core member Panda Bear sitting out the gigs.