Live: Panda Bear at the Bowery Ballroom, 06.18.07
Wouldn't want to bury the bloggerific lede, so let's get this out of the way. Saw keyboard player Robbie Guertin, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's middle finger—the tallest one who looks like Matthew Lillard playing a de-goateed Shaggy—at the Panda Bear show last night. Big whoop? A bigger whoop: saw Antony, thee Bjork-dueting Antony of the Johnsons, there too. And when Antony—or to be safe, the uncomfortable looking human who looked exactly like Antony in a hat—pushed towards the back exit. . . sweet Jehovah did the heads turn in delayed-reaction recognition. No, I did not take a picture.
So yeah, Noah Lennox, a now-Portugal dweller who puts out records as Panda Bear, has peer-famous admirers. But the bamboo eater's better-known affiliation, Animal Collective, apparently has at least one Oscar-famous fan: everybody and their ganja gramma claims to have seen Sofia Coppola at the South Street Seaport a few Fridays ago.
In the end, star power is worth its weight in mammal dung: Panda Bear solo was a much more dreamy, psychotropic experience than Animal Collective at the Seaport. Partly this is because a jam-packed, seemingly captive Bowery Ballroom is a much more conducive environment to enrapt transcendence than a temporary stage erected beside a loud street, underneath a Pizzeria Uno, where three-quadrillion other people have congregated and one dreadlocked girl is ashing her Camel in your hair. ("Oops, ha ha," the same girl said when a middle-aged man complained.) And Animal Collective at the Seaport were these little pin-headed creatures bouncing up and down with handheld mics, beatbox yodeling while pseudo-trippy screensavers swirled behind them. Compared to that total package, Lennox's solo presentation was better.
"Presentation" is an odd word to use about a dub-"freak"-pop show, but since Panda Bear spent the hour-plus standing there like this was his multimedia thesis, it seems fitting. Lennox manned a magical box of knobs and keys and cords, while a visual montage projected over him. When Cornelius came to town with a similar film-synced-performance recently at Webster Hall, the transposition was more cinematic, like Alloy Orchestra scoring Metropolis. With Panda Bear, it was the converse: the footage scored the music. Clips of figures pummeling drums, little spectator girls screeching at the offscreen suspense, a Great White tearing apart a victimized fish made Person Pitch's muted Salvation-Army-ringer beats even more vibrant.
The best moment was the drawn-out intro to the gorgeously sun-stroked "Comfy in Nautica." Footage recorded from a rollercoaster-seat perspective is always awesome to watch, but when it's projected onto a gargantuan backdrop and shot behind an amorous couple who shed their tops as they ascend that first hill, while tribal sunny-day-boardwalk beats and looped tambourine handclaps cheer them on — we were all ready for that freefall. I regret not taking that particular picture.
Zach Baron interviews Panda Bear
photos from South Street Seaport by Rob Trucks