I kept moderately decent notes this weekend, but the only thing I wrote down for Panda Bear’s performance was “zzz.” Literally, that’s it. He started out by alternating between droning tones and occasionally making some non-verbal vocal sounds overtop of it. That went on for a long, long time. If I had one take away memory from his performance, it would be looking around at the other photographers in the photo pit and catching similar looks of confusion. I mean, who didn’t love Person Pitch? That record is fantastic. But not only did he not play any hits off it, his set was about as far from it as possible.
There were many, many reasons that Panda Bear’s set was a disappointment. But I think if I had to, I could put them into two groups: 1) his stage setup/environment and 2) his music.
Before I get too into this, let me just say that I know what you’re going to say: Panda Bear had a hard time playing a midday set. And yes, that’s exactly right. But he’s been doing this long enough to know that he’s going to have an uphill battle when he’s got a midday set. I saw Animal Collective play in the sun last year at Bonnaroo and it was a super snooze fest (year before that, closing out Pitchfork at night — fantastic). So instead of having a stage set up that looks like this sorry excuse, why not have something going on? Major Lazer brought chinese dragons and backup dancers, Beach House had stage decorations and Sleigh Bells brought strobe lights. Panda Bear brought a weird video to play on the tv screens that couldn’t even be seen by people up front.
I’ve lived in a college town for years now and have seen my share of experimental shows. And really I enjoyed quite a few of them more than Noah’s show. When you’ve written some of the decade’s best tunes, please be prepared to play at least a few of them at your shows. Now I’m going to feel pretty goofy if Tomboy is the next Sgt Pepper’s, but the new stuff did not sound good in a live setting.
More photos after the break