Portland – Glass Animals appeared on stage Tuesday night at Crystal Ballroom bathed in purple smoke and encouraged by a young and eager crowd. The band is known for their bouncy, danceable electronic music, gaining attention ever since their 2012 debut EP, Leaflings. Now a household name, Glass Animals was as excited to be back in Portland as the audience was to see them, with front man Dave Bayley exclaiming, “The last time we were in Portland, we had pretty much the best show we’ve ever had. I think we can top it.” And top it they did, for the crowd was roaring from the moment Glass Animals began their set, with each new song conjuring a new excitement in the packed venue.
The Oxford-born band has reached worldwide fame after their full-length LP ZABA dropped last year. The four-piece met while attending university and were still students when they produced and released Leaflings. They signed to Wolf Tone in 2013 after being discovered by producer Paul Epworth, and their popularity has been rising exponentially ever since. It was apparent from the audience’s reaction that Glass Animals is not slowing down; their stage presence is wild and energetic, and most importantly, weird in all the right ways.
The crowd’s screams at the intro to the band’s hit, “Gooey,” was enough to demonstrate Glass Animals’ abundant popularity. The track is also one of the catchiest of the band’s collection, beginning with a simple twinkly beat and Bayley’s raspy falsetto and eventually transforming into the familiar dance track full of the “peanut butter vibes” the crowd so desperately wanted. Bayley excelled in moments of musical chaos, dancing with his arms raised and body moving every which way to the beat, only welcoming the crowd to do the same. Although the song created a communal atmosphere for the love of shared music, “Gooey” is a song about getting away from your surroundings: “I can’t take this place / I can’t take this place / I just wanna go / where I can get some space.” This is a testament to the band, who is able to create an atmosphere for the listener that in one way transports them to a happier place, but is meant to provoke a rejection of those very surroundings.
Glass Animals’ sound is all their own, while electronic and danceable, definitely, they are also able to build a sound that is subtle and smooth in its elements. Lyrically, the band focuses on all things strange, with Bayley even recognizing in “Hazey”: “I’m fucking loco / I can’t get through to you.” “Cocoa Hooves” goes even further, asking for an abandonment of norms and acceptance of the peculiar: “Why don’t you play with bows and arrows / Why don’t you dance like / you’re sick in your mind / Why don’t you set your wings on fire.” Glass Animals promotes a freedom to their listener–a freedom to be themselves and a freedom to dance.
There seems to be no stopping the English powerhouse from becoming stars, and that isn’t a bad thing. They’ve only just begun their reign, but Glass Animals is a force to be reckoned with. A Glass Animals show is what a live show is supposed to be: even brighter and even better than what you were expecting.
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