Experimental pop group, Animal Collective, has left an impressive footprint on the modern musical landscape. Of the group, Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, has established himself as the most distinctive solo artist with albums Person Pitch (2007), Tomboy (2011), and Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (2015). Although straying farther away from his old material in promotion of his new vinyl-only EP A Day With the Homies, his Levitation headlining show at The Mohawk did not disappoint.
Before Panda Bear took the stage, his Animal Collective bandmate Geologist opened up. Not being one of the frontmen of the group, it wasn’t until he assumed his classic headlamp that most of the crowd realized who he was. His sprawling modular synthesis perfectly prepared the crowd for the kaleidoscopic sights and sounds of the main event.
With a mere wave to the emphatic fans upon his stage entrance, Panda Bear started off in full force. After the intro tune “Dolphin” and a wash of ambience, he faded in the drum loops of “Boys Latin” with a roar of recognition from the audience. This is where he began to utilize the raw power of his light show. A huge screen projected psychedelic animations of shifting colors, naked bodies, and vivid patterns. Three floodlights, paired with standard stage lights, strobed in reflection of the song’s buoyant melody.
As the set progressed, it became more apparent that he was playing his songs as though he was running a DJ set, bringing musical elements in and out with no lapse in sound. This led to more improvisational transitions, unreleased tracks, and reworks of familiar songs, keeping the vibe fresh and interesting. He could have just sung his songs over the prerecorded beats, but it was clear he was in full control of every sound he was emitting.
Although his instrumentals are always unusual and engaging, his real power as an artist comes from his voice and melodic shaping. Channeling Brian Wilson, he effortlessly moved from a high falsetto to a dynamic belt to a crooning serenade. Closing with …Grim Reaper tracks “Tropic of Cancer” and “Selfish Gone,” the notoriously shy Panda Bear displayed his speaking voice for the first time saying “goodnight everyone, I hope you had fun,” and bid the crowd adieu.
– Submitted by Hayden Steckel, Music Design