It could have easily been late October: it was dark, rain spotted the pavement, and there was a guy walking around wearing a giant panda head. Incredibly, it was still August, but macabre was in the air outside the Biltmore Cabaret on August 29. Inside fared similarly — campy clown masks, hung by their hair, dangled from the instruments and rows of plastic skeleton faces, like the ones adorning storefronts on Halloween, decorated the stage backdrop in anticipation of freaky threesome Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks.
David Portner, one quarter of Animal Collective and better known as Avey Tare, created the horror-film-inspired project with ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman and former Dirty Projectors member Angel Deradoorian. The pyscho-pop power group was in town with Raleigh Moncrief for the last stop of their tour and to wreak havoc upon their consensual victims.
People were still filing in during Moncrief’s not quite 10 p.m. set. Though sparse, the audience formed tightly around the platform. Moncrief must have had the blues that night — in blue jeans, a blue T-shirt, and drowned in blue stage lights, his performance began on a high note and ended in, well, a blue one.
Mostly electronic in his recent endeavors, Moncrief was plugged in with only his guitar and produced a stripped-down effort that showcased his raw talent. His melancholic falsetto soared over hazy strums, evoking visions of a sunset drive down the highway with the windows rolled down. Moncrief’s beautiful despondence took a disappointing turn when he stopped halfway through what would be his last song, started playing a different one, and then gave up altogether, grumbling, “Ah, fuck it. Thanks,” before walking offstage.
Was he disheartened at the scant room? Did he just have a bad day? The crowd clapped in uncertainty, looked at each other, and shrugged.
After taking the stage and encouraging stragglers in the back to come closer because the show was “gonna be real fun,” Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks blasted off into “Catchy (Was Contagious)” with vengeance. The trio exhausted the length of their debut, Enter the Slasher House, as they delivered blood-curdling funk and leading transitions with warbling synth. Crowd-pleaser “Little Fang,” prompting fans to “Embrace your darkness / Never be ashamed,” induced carefree dancing and clapping.
Tare’s vocals were pure delight, sometimes hidden in noise, but that was the point. He switched his guitars continuously and wailed impressively from his knees on “That It Won’t Grow.” Sweet-voiced Deradoorian was barefoot and demure behind her lumbering keyboard and drummer Hyman was a reincarnation of Animal from The Muppets, walloping his kit with such brilliance the room nearly imploded. His two-minute solo on “Your Card” was inhumane — the audience stood slack-jawed as Hyman’s arms were mere blurs between shattered cymbals and warp-speed pounding.
“Thanks so much for having us,” Tare smiled. With that, the band left and the lights came on. Immediately, two guys snatched a skeleton face and clown mask from the keyboard and bolted towards the exit, giddy from the show, and probably about to go scare the shit out of their neighbours.