Photo by Jeremy Nelson
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Avey Tare Brings ‘Cows on Hourglass Pond’ to the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Servers locked up the patio and side doors and turned away a few confused customers as Amsterdam Bar and Grille prepared for a night of psychedelic rock from Avey Tare (David Portner) of Animal Collective. The dimly lit, hip downtown hot spot quickly ushered in groups of even more hip fans as the doors opened.

The bar buzzed with anticipating patrons, pining to get an earful of Cows on Hourglass Pond, Portner’s latest album. Some also couldn’t wait to get a mouthful of Amsterdam’s mouthwatering Dutch-style fare. With doors at 6 pm, it was perfect timing for dinner and a show!

Cows on Hourglass Pond Avey Tare Album Animal Collective
Cows on Hourglass Pond is Avey Tare’s latest solo album.

Opening for Portner was femme-delic vocalist and producer, Lipsticism. Flanked by a bassist and synthesizer, the set started out soft and slow. Dissonant, other-worldly beats and dreamy vocals from her 2018 album, Emergency, were a perfect complement to Portner’s signature sound. It was unfortunate that the bartenders continuously yelled over her melodies, asking to serve the next patron.

Picking up steam in the final 15 minutes of her set, she was left alone on the stage to finish up. The lyrics, “text me back, please, I can’t read your mind,” from the track, “Wellington,” were relatable for the crowd’s younger demographic and everyone gave a whooping cheer afterwards.

Her stage presence was simplistic and steady, but not overtly energetic. This worked in her favor, complementing the down-tempo beat of the majority of her tracks. She ended her set saying she’d be selling merch and to come chat, seeming like a truly sweet, gracious artist.

Joining Portner was Jeremy Hyman of Ponytail and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks on drums, and the one-and-only Deakin (Joshua Dibb), of Animal Collective, on various instruments. Even as the first few chords of “What’s the Good Side?” played out, the bartenders could not manage to keep their voices down, which was quite annoying.

Avey Tare Deakin Amsterdam St. Paul MN Cows on Hourglass Pond Animal Collective
Avey Tare and Deakin team up at Amsterdam in downtown St. Paul — Photo by Jeremy Nelson

Regardless, Portner impressed right off the bat, belting out over the twanging guitar. With his mic stand appropriately adorned with a creepy cow mask, he clearly came to entertain. His ability to impeccably recreate the meandering vocals and distorted sounds of his album did not go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, the sometimes ambient and often eclectic and off-beat style of much of his discography did not allow for the crowd to move much at all. Nonetheless everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Following up his opening with “HORS_,” the choice to stray from the strict track order of Cows on Hourglass Pond was a great move, as the album has some stagnant spots. This decision kept the set surprising and moving along. Portner remained animated and involved throughout, mimicking his sometimes-wacky musical persona with exaggerated head bobbing and swaying.

At times it felt like the crowd was in a trance, as tracks like “Taken Boy” droned along. However, the frequent tempo changes were refreshing and helped to keep the fans involved.

The best song of the night had to be “Remember Mayan.” The passion and energy from Portner was apparent. Each chord drifted beautifully along with a mist of smoke over the small dance floor.

Another memorable moment was the high energy rendition of “K.C. Yours,” a song that dominated Portner’s third album. “Heads Hammock,” from Portner’s first solo album, Down There, was a clear fan favorite, drawing whoops and hollers from the smaller crowd.

Deakin Support for Avey Tare Amsterdam St. Paul MN Cows on Hourglass Pond Animal Collective
Deakin provided his guitar, mixing, and vocal skills throughout the night. — Photo by Jeremy Nelson

Cooling down with “Saturday’s (Again)” was a great end to the early Sunday night show. Having played through almost the entirety of Cows on Hourglass Pond, with a few older and unreleased tunes, the attendees seemed to leave satisfied with the performance.

It was a fantastic show if you are a fan of Avey Tare, Animal Collective, and psychedelic noise music in general. The musicianship from Portner, Dibb, and Hyman was unmatched and the vocals were impeccable. If a random person off the street had stumbled upon this set, they may have been bored or confused, but it was clear that the crowd was ultimately impressed.

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