BEING THERE: Panda Bear @ Union Transfer


Last weekend, Panda Bear (a.k.a. Noah Lennox) navigated his sonic spaceship through Philly and Brooklyn as a part of his North American tour to drum up support for his forthcoming album with Domino Records. Tentatively titled Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, it does not yet have a release date. His two previous mystic dream-pop masterpieces, Person Pitch and Tomboy, set the bar for his new material at an all-time high, but his performances last weekend completely surpassed anything we could have expected, as shows at both Union Transfer in Philadelphia and at Warsaw in Brooklyn were absolutely mind blowing. Seeing the show twice was a way for me to reaffirm my status as an Animal Collective disciple who firmly believes that AC and its members can do no wrong. But I wasn’t alone in thinking that this weekend. Panda Bear played through about ten new tracks that had a dynamic range, from ambient, chilled-out songs that could have been anticipated from previous releases, to dreamy harp-laden lullabies, to colorful, funkier tunes that were more reminiscent of his Grammy-winning turn with Daft Punk. Particularly notable was Lennox’s kaleidoscopic vocals, which seemed more confident and resilient than ever, as he added to his powerful choir boy sounds with a handful of shrieks and shouts that complemented his new tracks. At times the sound resembled a psychedelic jungle party.  It was all hugs, kisses, tricks and treats for the soul. Tripped-out video visuals by Oddsac director/West Philly homeboy Danny Perez that played on a backdrop behind Panda Bear like a brain-bending, iridescent and sometimes nauseating kaleidoscope of fruit, lizards, silk, water, clouds, candy. The videos also featured women who were painted as the Grim Reaper and aliens that danced, ate ice cream and vomited.  It was confusing, terrifying at times, but undoubtedly the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, even if I couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen while the women vomited ice cream over and over again. With all of this added to an unhealthy amount of smoke from a fog machine and crowds of eager fans, each venue became a dangerously smoky planet of its own.  At each show the set was generally the same, including the encore of familiar songs “Last Night At The Jetty,” “Scheherazade,” and “Surfer’s Hymn.” At one point during the encore, the Grim Reaper, dressed in a red sequined robe, was shown in the videos holding a stuffed panda bear, which she cuddled like the sweet Panda Bear we know and love, and proceeded to rip off its head. Evidently, Panda Bear was trying to make us feel something, and though we’re not quite sure exactly that is yet, the execution of it was life-changing nonetheless. — MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ