Glass Animals’ music is almost impossible to describe; it’s not necessarily any one genre. One concertgoer related their sound to Alt-J…which sort of works. If I were to give it a go, I’d say their music is like if Alt Rock decided it wanted to kick it for a day and chill out in the jungle with just socks on. Eat peanut butter. Speak jungle slang. That sort of thing. It’s so critical that Glass Animals have a strong vision because otherwise, their music would just be bypassed as experimental college music. Though I may not grasp their entire concept, the vibrancy of their vision is definitely leading me somewhere I’m willing to go.
I had no idea what to expect of their live show except that it was sure to be a bit odd. I was surprised to see upon entering the venue that they had brought tall palm trees on stage. (How does a band bring 8 foot-tall trees on tour?) The stage was lit with warm red lights and a fan replicated a natural breeze through the palm leaves. They’d also draped their keys/synths stands in purple and green fabrics that matched their artwork. The venue had been completely transformed into their jungle wonderland.
Opener Rome Fortune, a rapper from Atlanta, fit the bill extremely well. He rides the same vibal wave as Glass Animals: measured, inviting the crowd to groove without pressure. The Brooklyn crowd was happy to play along.
Various birdcalls and rainforest sounds paired with striated white lights that looked like filtered sunlight introduced the four men of Glass Animals to the stage. Their show didn’t feel like moments made up of songs linked together, but rather it was an overall setting and mood. As carefully produced as their album was, their show was just as artful: prioritizing mood over mechanics, dynamics over sheer volume. The hazy vocals floated over minimal drums, quirky sound effects, keys, and rolling bass synths that rooted the music. This stood out on “Gooey” with Dave’s smooth vocals slithering over that hip-hop drumbeat.
I considered throughout the show that the singer, Dave, was somehow operating on a different perceptual reality. He tiptoed around the stage in his dress socks, remaining loose in his upper body, sometimes floppy. At the end of “Gooey”, he just melted to the ground, guitar in hand. It reminded me of how kids move in space before they internalize dance norms. As they say in “Cocoa Hooves”: “Why don’t you dance like/ You’re sick in the mind”. Or as another concertgoer put it, “He’s so weird”. But we all are.
We may’ve found the band to be odd (vis-à-vis Alternative norms), but the atmosphere they’d created around us mesmerized us all. The crowd was writhing and grooving of their own volition throughout the set (which is notable because New York crowds honestly will just stand still sometimes; bands have to earn our participation). It was also such a precious moment to hear the entire crowd singing the words to “Gooey”, especially when they all practically yelled the phrase “peanut butter vibes”. “Hazey” and “Pools” also appeared to be crowd pleasers. You could tell the band was pleased with the crowd’s support, flashing goofy smiles between songs. For their encore, they performed their cover of “Love Lockdown”, and “Pools”.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s frustrating to force myself to describe or classify their sound. Nearly impossible, actually. I have two theoretical explanations for this phenomenon. The first comes from psychology: we create mental schemas to help us place things in certain boxes, to readily make sense of the world. When we encounter something that does not fit our preexisting schemas, we find it difficult to place. As their music is something I can’t fit into my current definitions, I’ve had to mentally carve out a unique space for them.
The second explanation is that their music embodies a modern surrealist movement where things don’t have to make sense. Surrealism was defined by André Breton as la pensée parlée – the thought spoken: pure expression of one’s thoughts without filter. It glorifies the liberated imagination of children, the freedom of la folie – madness, and the beauty of la merveille – the wonderful (uncanny, impossible things). Surrealist acts are not bound to reality and meaning, they’re pure expression of the subconscious.
Glass Animals fit this movement exactly with lyrics like a children’s book full of uncanny creatures and twisted individuals. A wonderland of sorts. Their live show takes you into a surreal dimension – between reality and dream – somewhere between rain forest and concert venue. So, we all went down the rabbit hole when we fell for Glass Animals.