Panda Bear Plays New Material at Music Hall of WilliambsurgSeptember 23rd, 2014
Panda Bear – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 22, 2013
Flanked by two large blinking strobe lights, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) stood behind an elaborate console last night at a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg. At times, as bright, undulating video projections (designed by longtime collaborator Danny Perez) beamed upon the stage, Lennox, in his white T-shirt, nearly blended in with his surroundings. Of course, even when overtaken by pulsing patterns and colors, Panda Bear commands attention, singing earnestly while managing to craft elaborate layers of sampled sound, manipulating beats and looping vocals.
A new full-length album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, is slated for release later this year (although details are scarce), and Panda Bear performed several new tunes last night, mixing in a few crowd favorites from 2011’s Tomboy, like “Last Night at the Jetty” and “You Can Count on Me.” Many Panda Bear songs center around a repeated lyrical refrain, which Lennox sings over and over as music ebbs and flows around it, subtly shifting gears or abruptly changing course. As the projections flashed between disparate images—ice cream, lizard eyes, anemone, bunch of grapes, hypnotic dancing bald women—Lennox repeated the line, “Don’t ask why.”
It’s a treat to experience Panda Bear’s new material in the live format, where he seemed to relish the freedom to experiment and to witness the response from a crowd hearing the music with fresh ears. It shifted organically, ranging from haunting and spare to playful and pulsating, and although the grim reaper referenced in the upcoming album’s title did pay us a visit via projector, we emerged unscathed and fully entertained. —Alena Kastin