Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Panda Bear @ the Glass House

After complications with FYF last weekend, several shows immediately following were discounted to ridiculously low prices.  One of these was Panda Bear (The Goat opening) at the Pomona Glass House for $5.

I can't avoid discussing The Goat for a second.  I guess I was pretty thrown off.  I mean, you go to a Panda Bear show, pumped to have the entire venue basically drowned in dense layers of incomprehensible vocals and samples.  And then, a pretty vulgar "skate rock" band opens the evening.

I have to admit that I was considering walking out to spare my ears for a while.  But after I saw the keyboardist smiling and laughing during the performance, it made me realize that they're having fun, and that's what the music was about.  Whereas Panda Bear would come come out in ~45 minutes to play his heart out with songs that express some pretty intense emotions, The Goat were there to simply rock out to some more shallow songs (I hate to use that word, but it's deadly accurate here) including a cover of DMX's "Ruff Ryder's Anthem".

Anyways, when Panda Bear (Noah Lennox is his actual name, btw, and I will use these names interchangeably, b/c sometimes one seems more appropriate than the other) did finally come on, it was his usual type of setup.  Lennox stood behind his altar of effects processors, synths, keyboard, what-have-you, with his guitar strapped on and ready to go.

Two projectors (stage left, stage right) shot out light across the heads of the crowd, landing it on the back walls and having a Disco Ball 2.0 effect.  Then, a third projector shot video onto a stage wide screen behind Lennox.  This should immediately make fellow Animal Collective fans think, "ODDSAC."  And rightly so.  Not only was the recently released DVD being sold in the front (thank God, I finally got my copy), but over the next hour we would be treated to a very similar "visual album" type experience.  In fact, some of the visuals from the projected video looked a little familiar to ones seen in ODDSAC.  Imagine your favorite media player's visualization package (Windows Media Player, iTunes, Milkdrop, etc.), then make it more coherent, and splice in actual videos of people that are blurred into the spinning and stirring visuals.  Pretty magical.  My favorite bit was a few minutes where several clips of (what I'me pretty sure were) fans reactions at a sporting event were mixed in, and looped over and over, revealing a little more each time they came through.  The effect was strikingly emotional when accompanied by Panda Bear's intense music.  Another memorable bit was some passionate lovemaking looped over and over during "Song for Ariel / Guys Eyes".

Onto the music... the most important thing to mention here is the vocals.  It's very clear (through both Panda Bear's past work and Animal Collective material) that Lennox is not afraid to belt it out.  His voice is not a storytelling/sharing accompaniment to the music.  His voice is an integral part of the music.  Using lots of "st" and "pft" noises throughout his songs and dragging the vowels into endless sustain, it looks like Lennox is further exploring what he can do with that beautiful mouth of his (was that too creepy?).  Indeed, in a recent interview with the L.A. Times' music blog Pop & Hiss, Lennox reveals...

"I’ve been listening to a lot of crooners like Sinatra and Scott Walker. There’s such a power there, and I’ve never really been into literary concerns as a lyricist so I wanted to focus on that forceful presence." - Lennox for Pop & Hiss

As I was hoping, Panda Bear performed bits of Animal Collective tracks along with his solo material.  Most interesting was his tortured version of "Daily Routine" from Merriweather Post Pavilion.  For those unfamiliar with the track, there is a super-catchy part where Lennox sings a line and then he answers back immediately with a sort of jingly synth riff.  Lennox would start this call and response session but only got around to giving the response after several abrupt starts and stops.

I didn't catch the full setlist, but he did play my personal favorite "Comfy in Nautica".  And he also played the new tracks "Tomboy", featuring a prominent "kst" sound as mentioned above, and "Slow Motion".  You can check out the new track here and here.

The much awaited album, Tomboy, doesn't actually have a release date yet.  But the first single has already been released and plans to release the second in October appear to be working out.

Keep your eyes on this guy.  He's a fantastic musician, an excellent performer, and he puts together a great visual show as well.

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