LIVE: Panda Bear At Warsaw (5/18/14)
By Kyle MacKinnel, photos by Selby Nimrod on May 23, 2014
Comfy tee conditions in the mid-May twilight, authentic pierogies made to order, Zywiec flowing on tap. Prime conditions for a show at Greenpoint's Polish-National-Home-turned-music-venue, Warsaw. The room is an oversized, nondescript rec. hall, save for the presumably Polish landscapes adorning its white walls and ornate chandelier presiding. On off nights, one could easily imagine a large-scale bingo game, community staging of Fredro's Zemsta, or EasterMonday banquet going down in the space. At present, it's a trending venue on the Brooklyn show circuit, and about to host a marquee lineup featuring virtually unheard music by the quiet force behind the most influential band of this generation, via Red Bull's Music Academy series. The buzz of the amassing crowd's is palpable. It will soon be scorched through with endless lasers.
Luke Wyatt's Torn Hawk is up first with his sample collages, tossing out free Red Bulls before he starts. Behind the laptop station, he shreds a beat up old Strat, his playing filtered through a processor chain only to escape the house system in the form of what sounds like a snowcap-perched eagle screaming through a shifting gale. It's an impressive set.
Dam-FunK's ongoing Gen-Y renaissance of the last several years is one of the most fortunate gifts that Brooklyn kids and their brethren still take for granted, until, that is, they see him perform. Not only is he a remarkably competent musician, effortlessly segueing into jazz-caliber MIDI wanderings, he also pulls out off-the-cuff gems such as, "I don't want to be a star, 'cause being a star is corny. Look at these motherfuckers, fighting in elevators and shit." Later, he leads a call-and-response funk jam featuring the litany, "I really don't give a fuck/I hope you guys are screwing." This progresses into a crowd duet with a gawky, bespectacled onlooker and his surprisingly good ear. People are amused, but many appear unsure exactly how to get with a funk set.
To be clear, everything up to this point, for my money, was excellent. But the night truly starts here. Flanking either side of Noah Lennox's sampler-synth station are two Cyclopean, black drone boxes that could be mistaken for big amp stacks, until they start emitting and refracting sick lasers all over the Polish National Center's great room. I've seen some pretty impressive visual shows in my day--I have witnessed the Yeezus tour and watched U2's 2002 Super Bowl halftime show (on television)--but let me be clear when I say that this is the most impressive visual experience that I've ever had at a show. Imagine being inside of a Lite-Brite that has achieved consciousness. I profoundly wish to be tripping. I am not tripping, but the audiovisual joyride loses none of its glorious appeal.
It will be difficult to speak in specifics about the music that represents Panda Bear's forthcoming Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, since individual tracks have scarcely surfaced online and the material has only been performed for a couple of weeks, not to mention that the experience of the set is a fluid and kaleidoscopic one, but suffice it to say that this sounds to be a very, very exciting record. It feels like a synthesis of the last two Panda records, merging the psyched sun jamboree of Person Pitch (2007) with the monastic cohesion of 2011's unheralded Tomboy, Lennox all the while employing his deft aural vacillations between the vivid and the abstract. ODDSAC director and Animal Collective trip-shaman Danny Perez's visuals resonate perfectly, shifting in and out of focus on moving pictures of barfing humanoids, then dissolving into evolving cultures of neon-dyed amoebic patterns. It should speak volumes that, toward the end of the set, when I climb the stairs to the press balcony at the room's rear to obtain a alternate vantage, I discover none other than an awestruck David Byrne looking on, capturing an Instagram for his @LuakaBop label account. I take a seat, rest my head on the banister and proceed to enjoy a vibrant bath in Lennox's laser aquarium.