What a magical night! I’m so pleased Panda Bear took time out of his globe-spanning tour to come to Madison. As I mentioned in my preview, I had high expectations for this concert. I wasn’t familiar with the opener, Blues Control, so what I heard was really surprising. Members Lea Cho & Russ Waterhouse blew me away with their instrumental jazzy, noisy, psychedelic sound. They were a perfect primer for Panda Bear’s set.
Panda played a number previously released songs, but he mostly seemed to be sourcing from his album Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper set to be released later this year. I heard that Panda Bear takes the live show as a chance to debut his new music, and I was happy to hear the unfamiliar sounds, especially because I know I’ll be experiencing it in a completely new way when I hear the album versions. I am really looking forward to the new album, and if the concert was any indication of what it will be like I think fans of his more ethereal, floating, dreaming sounds will be pleased. But dancers shouldn’t be turned off; there were plenty of beats to bop around to.
The encore was an unbelievable rendition of “Surfer’s Hymn” off of his 2011 release Tomboy. The soundscapes that song weaves through my mind were amplified in the live format; it really gave me shivers.
I knew that someone as psychedelically-inclined as Panda Bear would have an amazing visual aspect to the show, but I was surprised by how unique the art turned out to be. There was no run of the mill looking-at-the-sun-on-acid rainbow effect to be found, it was all original artwork by Danny Perez. Panda and Perez had worked together before, most notably on Animal Collective’s 2010 film ODDSAC. The visuals were perfect avant-garde representations of Panda’s sometimes erratic, sometimes smooth sound. At times, the screen displayed huge high-quality images morphing into each other. The lights transformed big juicy strawberries into dark blackberries into plump red lips. At other times, there were beautiful alien women with blue skin and shaved heads undulating around the screen and staring into your soul.
Panda had two large strobes stationed on either side of him, and throughout the concert he would flick them on, setting the crowd into a bit of a frenzy. The strobe was unlike any I’ve experienced at another concert, likely because Panda appeared to be controlling its speed and intensity, linking it with the music.
Nothing can compare to a night filled with beautiful, emotional music, bright lights, fantastical images, and dancing. If Panda Bear ever returns to Madison, I know I’ll be there.