LSD is to Animal Collective what marijuana is to Snoop Dogg—a great accompaniment for the journey.
I have accomplished the latter twice already (both when Snoop Dogg was still “Snoop Dogg”), but the former has been a goal of mine since my junior year of high school.
I discovered Animal Collective in 2009, through a history teacher and an ex-girlfriend. My infatuation with the group came a year later when I moved from El Paso to Austin, and experienced a bad break-up shortly after. Merriweather Post Pavilion’s final track, “Brother Sport,” became my favorite song during that time. Whenever I felt sad, I imagined Avey Tare gently telling me, “You got to get rid of the mourning.”
I don’t remember what made me want to drop acid at an Animal Collective show. It just seemed logical—natural, even.
It’s Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, and my friend (who we’ll call Jack) is handing me two hits of “Grade A,” Northern California acid, for tonight’s Animal Collective show. “You’re going to trip hard, bro,” he says. I CANNOT FUCKING WAIT.
Austin Music Hall, the venue where the show is taking place, is big. Two floors and an enormous stage—the venue has become known for hosting packed shows, and Animal Collective is no exception. A congregation of fans squeezes together on the first floor with neon apparel piercing through the darkness.
I make my way to the nearest bathroom and impatiently wait for a stall. A middle-aged guy stands next to me: “You waiting on a stall,” he asks. “Yes,” I reply. “You’re either going in to take a shit, or do some drugs. Which one is it?” “Shit,” I lie. “Can’t dance to Animal Collective with full bowels.” “Ha, I agree with that. Well, enjoy your shit.” I enter the stall, immediately reach into my front left pocket and pull out the acid.
“I walk out of the bathroom, hoping for instant results. It’s obvious that I’m an LSD noob.”
I unravel the contents: two super-small square papers laced with acid, and with Jack in the Box’s Jack on the front. (Hence the name Jack.)
I breathe deeply—there’s no turning back. This is my first time dropping acid, and I’m about to trip to Animal Collective. I put both hits on my tongue, close my mouth and suck. I walk out of the bathroom, hoping for instant results. It’s obvious that I’m an LSD noob.
Animal Collective has begun; they start their set with “Rosie Oh,” a song from their recently released album, Centipede Hz. I make my way up to the venue’s second floor, hoping to get a better look at the stage.
I suddenly freak out. Mind you, the acid hasn’t even hit yet, but THE STAGE IS IN THE FORM OF A FUCKING MOUTH. Multi-colored spirals of varying lengths fill the mouth, as Animal Collective causes a psychedelic ruckus inside of it.
“Today’s Supernatural,” “Wide Eyed,” “Applesauce.” The songs are continuous—one long, droning musical mind-fuck that only gets weirder. By now, I’m doing the “I-close-my-eyes-and-feel-the-music” thing. Minimal synesthesia is occurring. Panda Bear’s voice is disguised in a heaping pound of celestial synths and tribal percussion.
I move to the right side of the second floor again, hoping for a better view. I get everything—all four members, and the stage’s eccentric design. At that moment, Avey Tare strikes his guitar that triggers the moment I have been waiting for: the opening chord to “Brother Sport.”
The acid finally hits. My jaw cringes. My smile and eyes widen. My foot begins to tap, and my hands begin to clap.
“Open up your throat, Matt,” I scream. Peoples’ silhouettes begin to move slowly, and whenever I close my eyes for a long time, colorful and vibrant images appear. “Holy shit,” I whisper to myself. I am a giddy little kid, crying because of the overwhelming joy I feel.
The bridge comes: “Won’t help to hold inside / Keep it real, keep it real, shout out.” My heart is beating wildly as I jump into the air. I scream into the ear of some man, whose unresponsiveness leads me to believe he is tripping balls too.
Tare is now screaming. I am screaming. We are all screaming. We are a psychedelic tribe, and “Brother Sport” is our “Kumbaya.” Tare comes from behind his piano, and takes center stage alongside Deakin. The notes in my phone are nonsense: “ALL CAPS! I CANNOT CONTAIN MY FUCKING EXCITEMENT. I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS RIGHT NOW!”
Tare returns to his piano, and finishes off the set with “My Girls.” The crowds’ claps are swallowing me whole, but the light on Geologist’s forehead is saving me from descending into darkness.
“Woo,” we all scream. Once again, here I am, yelling into this guy’s ear, and jumping without a care in the world. The synths fade, and Animal Collective walks offstage. The venue lights come on, and the faces are visible. Pupils dilated, jaws clenched—we all look alike.
I’m hugging anybody I can as we all head to the venue’s entrance. I see a friend whom I was unaware was at the show. “I’m on acid,” I tell her. “Are you really?” She does not need an answer; the drooling and over-excitement says it all.
Outside, it’s raining. I feel like jello—shaky and limber. I know this euphoric feeling will eventually run its course, so I’m determined to utilize it for as long as I can. That is, if I can get past the traffic lights, showing every fucking color in existence.
Editor’s note: The author has requested anonymity, and we have respected those wishes.