The geodesic white dome at MOMA PS1’s performance space where Panda Bear (a.k.a., Noah Lennox, one-quarter of the group Animal Collective) showcased his to-be-released January 13th Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper song cycle fit like a hand in glove with sound complementing space complementing artist complementing crowd and so on and so on. As Panda Bear’s longtime art collaborator Danny Perez’s graphics—a one-time-only contribution for this show—swirled smoke-like through the audience, across faces, into the nooks&crannies of clothes while also climbing up onto the surrounding walls and smacking into the screen behind the musician, Panda Bear appeared completely engulfed in both the visuals and the sounds coming from the tips of his fingers and out of his mouth, with the only static thing on his body the neon-green in-ear monitors that glowed on each side of his head.
From the first notes of “Crosswords” from the new release, the trance state was set, the audience suitably primed, and as I watched Panda Bear weave the words and twist the knobs, I realized just how much so-called Rock Face has stayed the same throughout the ages, no matter whether the performer has a Stratocaster strapped to his chest or, as in this case, is clutching a mike with one hand and feeling his way over an electronic keyboard with an array of sound effects with the other. Eyes closed, a sheen of sweat on his brow, Panda Bear’s transported-by-the-music body tics were both intimate, yet also familiar to anyone whose ever been to an arena rock show, putting a lie to the idea that you’ve got to have bombastic flash pots and dueling guitar leads in order to deliver a big music moment.
The new songs from PB vs GR more than stand out with or without the graphics, but much like a Butthole Surfers concert was never as good as when a video loop was rolling in the background, Panda Bear’s songs lend themselves to a multimedia experience, and Danny’s graphics do not disappoint. “Boys Latin” flashed a strobe-light color infusion which had the crowd moving as one, until the musician slowed down the rhythm with “Go Ask Why” and “Come to Your Senses” and the visuals followed suit sliding out from under the mood along with the notes. In fact, from front to back the manipulation of the energy worked to set everyone rolling for 50 solid minutes at which point he left the stage—though it was still reverberating with the kind of feedback every show goer knows so well as a sign that more might still happen. Whether it’s that Strat leaning against the speaker or, as in this case, the sound system left on 11, the audience stood quietly primed for a couple more shots to the aural heart.
And, though it’s not hard to think that whether he’s stepping out as Noah Lennox or Panda Bear, he enters his house, a restaurant, a sound studio and even a stage in the same laconic manner, he ambled back to his tower of sound for two more sonic booms: “Mr. Noah” from PB vs GR was a moving grooving 5 minutes of fun, followed by “Surfer’s Hymn” from 2011’s Tomboy album that ended the whole shebang in bombastic chaos.
The live feed from the MOMA PS1 Boiler Room show will be available to stream until Tuesday, January 13th, which is also the date of Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper‘s release.
Other tour dates here:
3/4/15 – London, UK – Brixton Electric
3/5/15 – Brussels, Belgium – L’Orangerie
3/6/15 – Paris, France – Gaité Lyrique
3/8/15 – Zeewolde, The Netherlands – Where The Wild Things Are Festival
3/10/15 – Berlin, Germany – Certain People @ Berghain
3/11/15 – Lisbon, Portugal – Teatro Maria Matos
3/12/15 – Braga, Portugal – GNRation
4/12/15 – Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
4/19/15 – Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival