I have enjoyed the thrills of live sounds for years and years. There’s something magical about the experience of seeing something you committed to your memory through repeated revolutions on record players suddenly becoming real for your ears in a building with the minds that made it there in front of you.
I can remember most of the gigs, shows, sets, concerts – what ever you wish to call them – that I have attended - not the literal evening but sensations, snippets, sounds and smells that conjure up a moment or an emotion that was lodged way in my brain. Fleeting images of my heroes played out in mind films on the surface of my eyes.
Panda Bear at the Village Underground on Tuesday is now firmly lodged in the cerebral mass of synapses and connections. I am a fan of Panda Bear – you all should be a fan of Panda Bear – because there’s a beauty within those electronic collages that soothes the soul.
For those unaccustomed to Panda Bear – he is actually Noah Lennox – and one part Animal Collective. I came to Animal Collective after listening to Panda Bear – not the other way round. I like Animal Collective but I like Panda Bear more. Each tune he has released has wrapped itself around my heart and made me smile that little longer – not that they are all happy tunes mind.
I arrive at the Village Underground a little early. So I head off for a drink in graffiti covered buildings and hip surroundings. I buy a drink. It costs £5.80. Ridiculous really. I think The Smiths t-shirt I bought at one of my first concerts cost £5.
Some time the city is out to rip you off.
Panda Bear is playing in East London tonight – but this is no rip off – this is not a rock n roll swindle. And this is his one date in the city as he waltzes through Europe and beyond. There is only one day to spend with this homie. Not even a day – it’s only a night.
But I’m glad I spent it with you.
Proceedings begin with Maria Reis who produces sounds that are both haunting and jaunty – there’s a popness to her MBV meets Eno tunes. The crowd are warm in their appreciation and the cavernous building - with it’s bar on the side making it difficult to see the stage - feels intimate as she plays to the swelling numbers.
And then we wait for PB. I have managed to find a spot way down the front about two bodies back and to the right of the stage. The crowd is hip and youthful – but I don’t care - I am an old man taking space from the youth. I dig this too.
I wait for the arrival of Noah. At 9.30 the lights dim and Panda Bear enters the room – he takes off his coat- keeps on his hoodie - picks up the microphone and begins to create sonic alchemy. Tonight’s ‘show’ and to be fair it is a ‘show’ is full of repetitive visuals and strobed lights and screens there to add and support the wonderful sounds of the Bear’s workbench. I’m intrigued by the workbench – it looks cobbled together with MDF to hold instruments that shake the very soul. Noah works this table of instruments(?) throughout the set – sounds blending and growing from his array of special units and keys – drones become fragments of songs and layers of sound build upon each other into this beautiful digital cacophony offset with sweet harmonies and honest feelings.
To be honest it’s hard making out what I’m listening to – I never got hold of the last vinyl only ‘A Day with the Homies’ but I guess this is what I’m listening to interspersed with songs from when he took on the Grim Reaper and won. There’s a few older ones too all presented with a backdrop of a pulsating dancing woman in garish make up and flowing dresses. It’s a trip maaaaaaan. A real mind bending trip. But the audience are here for the ride – there’s a group behind me bellowing the words and dancing with wild abandon – we are here to worship at Lennox’s sonic altar – we are his disciples – which is apt because it’s just after Easter that he walks amongst us.
The night develops through each sample and repetitive drone with the Panda adding vocals as loops become recognizable tunes - it’s hard to know where to clap – so I just grin throughout. The new tunes are harder in terms of beats – there’s elements of hip hop, drum and bass and the inevitable dubstep – but it doesn’t feel bandwagon jumping more an evolving landscape of sound that Panda Bear inhabits. The set consisted of this according to setlist.com
Dolphin (New Song)
I Know I Don't (New Song)
Part of the Math
Cosplay (No Outro)
Cranked (New Song)
Home Free (New Song)
Cosplay Demo (Outro)
The end of the set before the encore slowly built into a huge pulsating bass drone with vomiting visuals and strobes. It was heavy work. But there’s absolute heavy soul in his squelching electronic psychedelia.
Lennox is not a dance musician - but we sway in unison at times to his kinetic rhythms and futuroid B(each) Boy singing – because after all his voice remains his secret weapon. It’s what everything hangs on –and follows this incredible set with an encore of three incredible works - Sabbath (New Song), Crescendo (New Song) and finally Sunset with each one getting better than the last. We are uplifted and dancing – and then he is gone.
Coat on and out the building – well probably not - but I want to afford him some rock star status – not that he is that at all but he deserves to held up a little higher than he is. It’s hard to find music that resonates and connects in this digital forever streaming age and Panda Bear is making incredible tunes that will stand up and be re -evaluated in future years.
I’m glad Panda Bear played at the Village Underground and you will be glad next time he plays – because you’ll be there too.
Here's a Part of the Math from France - I can't find any videos from London - but you get the idea.