Animals As Leaders Commemorate Their 10th Year With A Stop At The Skyway Theatre


An evening filled of experimentation, progression and celebration for the impact that Animals As Leaders has had on the scene since their debut album 10 years ago. 

The Brooklyn based duo, Buke And Gase, have been around for nearly as long as the headliners.  It was something of a homecoming for signer Arone Dyer who once resided in Minnesota, as she spoke of being back for the first time in a long while.  Her mother was in attendance and was acknowledged by Dyer with a wave and a suggestion that the crowd should embrace her as she is a hugger.  This duo brought sights and sounds that may be uncommon for some but was a fitting occurrence while in the company of the other bands on the bill.  Their instruments were hybrids and DIY alterations of more conventional instruments.  These modified instruments is also where they band’s name is derived from.  The buke is modified six string baritone ukelele and gass is an amalgamation of a guitar and bass.  At one point in their history they were known as Buke And Gass but have since altered that to how their moniker is known today.

Dyer has an amazing array of vocal talents that is rich in quality, that was evident very early into their half hour set.  The musical duties that were shared along with Aron Sanchez presented an opportunity to showcase the instruments that were designed and built by the player’s hands.  Among all these unique instruments that were producing peculiar tones, a kick drum may appear as rather mundane.  While it did help keep a pulse to the music it also offered an aesthetic piece to the puzzle.  While the band was adorned in long white gowns, the white kick drum was back lit on an angle.  This created a long shadow of the beater as it approached the drum with each depression of the pedal and then faded away as it dropped back.  While they occupied a very small portion of the stage, their music filled the vast Skyway Theatre lush sonic tones.

A band of a similar age as the others on the bill, The Contortionist brought their djent sounds the table.  The Indianapolis band eased into their performance with quieter passages that erupted into abrasive moments.  The swirling rhythms that danced around one another drifting off on their own and back again always leads to a sonic space to get carried away with.  As to be expected with bands of their ilk, more is often a key ingredient.  Whether that be more instruments, more time signature changes, more breakdowns, more minutes in the song or more strings on the guitar.  More of everything provides more pieces for sonic textures that can be explored and expanded on.  There was certainly a large amount of folks that were enjoying what they were creating on that stage.  The hordes of banging heads to disjointed rhythms was evident of that.

The Contortionist Setlist:
Return To Earth / Godspeed / Reimagined / Absolve / Clairvoyant / Flourish / Integration / Solipsis / Language II

As the darkness fell across the Skyway Theatre, there was a buzz of excitement in anticipation for the final act of the evening, Animals As Leaders.  As founding member, Tosin Abasi, emerged from the shadows a roar from the crowd ensued.  Abasi and fellow guitarist, Javier Reyes, dazzled the audience with their guitar playing proficiency as they picked and fretted their way across their 8 string guitars.  On a number of occasions throughout the night, Abasi had a smile stretched out across his face as he was enjoying the musical interaction with his bandmates and the adoration of the crowd that held their hands adrift in the air, outstretched to draw nearer to this virtuoso.

There was a moment when a second guitar was brought out to the stage that was affixed to a stand and placed to the right of Abasi.  After capturing that moment I noticed a rather large amount of the audience had done the same thing.  There were numerous bright screens that dotted across the darkened crowd replicating the scene upon the stage.  After completing the segment of the song Brain Dance that utilized a nylon guitar, Abasi slung the nylon strung guitar around his back and began to play the electric guitar that was held up by the stand.

The lighting rigs they had setup were very complimentary to the cosmic sounds that engulfed the venue.  Slower moments had lights that swelled in brightness in unison to the music.  When the erratic blasts of djent music emerged again the bright strobes complimented the sensory experience as the thumping music was felt in the chest.  It was very precise and clean which allowed the musicians on stage to be highlighted appropriately.

Being an instrumental band, there was not much use of the microphone that stood next to Abasi.  However, he did on a few occasions rave about his bandmates and their gifts with their respected instruments.  The crowd were also enamored with Matt Garstka’s ability behind the kit and was given plaudits for his intensely amazing drumming skills as he impressed everyone within the venue.  A reoccurring theme heard across various sections of the audience was the immense talent that graced the stage that night.  With all that they’ve accomplished and the skills they’ve developed over the last 10 years, it will be intriguing to see and hear what the next 10 will bring.

Animals As Leaders Setlist:
Wave Of Babies / Tempting Time / Thoroughly At Home / Arithmophobia / Cognitive Contortions / Nephele / Price Of Behaving Badly / Para Mexer / Brain Dance / Ectogenesis / Inner Assassins / Woven Web / CAFO / Physical Education

Remaining tour dates:

W/ Special Guests The Contortionist along with Moon Tooth

Sat May 18 – Toronto, ON Opera House
Sun May 19 – Philadelphia, PA TLA
Mon May 20 – Boston, MA Paradise
Tue May 21 – New York, NY Irving Plaza
Thu May 23 – Atlanta, GA Masquerade
Fri May 24 – Nashville, TN Cannery Ballroom
Sat May 25 – Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall