I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: DJ sets are weird. More specifically, quote-unquote celebrity DJ sets are weird. I mean, I get the concept and agree that it’s interesting to hear what other people (specifically other people who make music for a living) are fans of and have on their playlist. But it’s still weird.
It’s weird because the people who attend these things aren’t so much there for the dancing as they are for the scene. Call it a case of the FOMO or call it a case of the “what else are we going to do?”, but you need to admit it’s odd to be standing in a dimly lit room with pounding beats, the majority of people looking at their smartphones all directed to the stage where two guys stand by a laptop and mix one song into another one.
Such was the case with Animal Collective’s DJ set at the Drake Hotel on Thursday night, playing to a fairly squished room of electronic revelers. As a fan of the band, I was happy to give it a shot – though to me, band DJ sets really only make sense if the band itself is actually in town and they’re just taking part in some extracurricular activities on the side. It makes drastically less sense when members of said band come to town for the sole purposes of DJing, though maybe I’m just old fashioned and want to be wooed first or whatever.
Anyway – back to where this story was going: Animal Collective was in town, DJing to a crowd of mid-to-late 20-somethings. Collective may not a generous word here as it was technically just half of the band with both Avey Tare and Panda Bear skipping out on the show. With the two better-known names off doing something else, it was up to Deakin and Geologist to keep the audience entertained. (To be fair: Avey Tare has been on a bunch of the other DJ set tour dates but probably couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of crossing the border.)
They did a pretty good job of it, truth be told, with a busy dance floor and deep bass circulating the room. There was enough weird Animal Collective-esque sounding influxes of world music and creeping bass to keep people on their toes, and the inclusion of Panda Bear’s “Crosswords”, from his excellent 2015 album Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, was obviously met with cheers.
The pair stood on stage in slouchy sweaters and baseball caps. They are, obviously, music fans – but it still felt weird and overwhelmingly like a case of the “we would like some money too, please.”
When you compare DJ sets to, say, the creation of original material, it obviously comes off less impressive and frankly far less worthy of a review. Yet here I am, writing a review about it, and there they were – convincing a lot of people to drop their hard earned cash for a pretty good selection of music, albeit one hidden behind walls of Instagram feeds.
As the saying goes: Those who can, do. Those who aren’t trying want you to come to their DJ set. Those who do neither are apparently writing reviews about it.