It’s been almost a week since this show and there’s a reason that I haven’t already posted: I hate panning shows—but The Extreme Animals sat down on the job.
“It’s amateur hour in there,” said one loyal passholder who’d escaped to the beer garden after watching the Animals cue, crash, and reboot Youtube videos, floundering through a half-baked introduction about pop culture. “Everybody wants to ‘go green,’” said Jacob Ciocci, “but my new thing is I wanna go ‘dark green’—it’s like the goth version of going green.” Polite laughter. “There’s a thing in life right now where, everything’s very intense. I call it the ‘new intensity.’” Pause. (Quick—someone dub this guy a “creative” and give him an Eyebeam fellowship!)
Now, I don’t mind “pop,” and I don’t mind Youtube. And I’m pretty fond of wild sociological theories. But in this case, rather than using these tools to build a unique experience, the Extreme Animals repeatedly juggled and dropped them. I blame creatives like Michael Rioux, the man who made #8 of Ten Tiny Dances, for making it look too easy to pop off with the perfect irreverent comment and engage a whole audience. It’s easy for creatives like Rioux, but that’s a function of studied mental agility and years of experience. Their genius enables their spontaneity—not vice versa. It seems like Ciocci got this twisted.
Eventually, the Animals got around to the musical performance, a manic mishmash of samples upstaged by a screaming screen of pop-culture collage and Atari pixel-porn. I know the Beastie Boys were sped up to sound like chipmunks. I know one guitar was played. I know a drum machine was manipulated—but the audience, by and large, was not. One welcome lull, underpinned by a hard-hitting triphop beat, fixated on footage of step dancers wearing white gloves that left glowing trails. This didn’t necessarily make a point, but served as some sort of comedown drug with a slightly more tolerable trip.
When it was David Wightman’s turn to shine with his shredding guitar project Fortress Of Amplitude, he showed considerable chops, looping tricky metal riffs and then harmonizing over them. But Wightman’s mad skillz could not redeem the overambitious presentation, which failed to finish the promised narrative about youth- and celebrity-worship and left plenty of Portland hipsters convinced that they could BS as well or better. Like the falling blocks in a tetris game, the barrage of stimuli kept evening out to null, and eventually piled up to a clunky “game over.”