Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Panda Bear - Berlin HAU 2

Seeing Panda Bear perform in Berlin last weekend at the Hebbel Am Ufer 2 was nothing short of astonishing. The man behind the moniker, Noah Lennox, is firstly known for being 1/3 of Animal Collective, the most prodigious indie band of the last decade. When he’s not touring or writing music with them (check off 9 albums now), he resides in Portugal with his wife and kid and still finds time to make some of the most open-minded music to be conceived a single person. Now while never having played Berlin solo before, one would've suspected him to perform an evenhanded mix of stuff off his two albums, Young Prayer (quietly came out in ‘04 in response to his father’s death, recorded in the same house he passed away in) and of course, Person Pitch (took several ‘07 Album of the Year honors for its endless layering of samples, sun-warped rhythms and Brian Wilson-like vocal textures) but more on that in a minute...

In a room swarming with fashion-forward Berliners, all eyes quickly rested on the most unassuming person in the whole place, who was wearing nothing but a washed out t-shirt, jeans and slip-ons. With no stage lights on him and no introduction, Panda Bear commanded the stage for over an hour with only an electric guitar, a small synth, two mixers and a mic. Oh yeah, and he didn’t play a single thing off either of his two beloved albums. Instead, Panda projected a montage of new work onto us without asking for permission or delivering any apologies. With equal parts dark/primitive to romantic/auspicious, you could almost hear each song spell out a different provocation: "Who cares about what I've done before?...Who cares what the concert promoters want out of me?... Who cares about how much better the state of the world was in a few years ago?...Why care about anything else besides being present in this very moment, together?"And before we knew it, the whole room was seemingly brainwashed into letting go of the past and all in favor of lionizing the future.

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Then, just as modestly as he had appeared, he was gone. No mindless banter. No self-promoting. No indie smugness. Just music. Pure and unbridled, for a new decade....On the way out, I glanced at the merch table in the back and found there were zero Panda Bear lp's/cd's, stickers or hoodies for sale. Just one shirt layed there and it looked like it had been drawn on with a half-dead Sharpie...perhaps by his daughter even. Oh, if only the rest of the music world would invest more time on their craft and less time on their convoluted haircuts, tiresome wardrobes and splashy merchandise, I think we would all be more excited about what possibilities the future holds...and not just musically.

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