Live music: the venue, the crowd, the energy, the ridiculous volumes, the performance, the vast difference in emotion when compared to a recording… In other words, the vitality and soul of music.
There’s nothing quite like going to see a live musical performance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a symphony or a blaring rock concert. When you find yourself in the same room, be it a massive arena or a smokey bar, with flesh and blood musicians, unique energies manifest that can never be achieved with a set of speakers and a recording.
Before delving into the Panda Bear concert, check the following link (and accompanying video) out if you don’t believe me. The world is taking more and more notice and working towards a day where we may always get to experience music in a “live” setting.
Dr. Walker: Making Dead Pianists Come Alive
Now back to the concert:
I have been quite lucky in my concert experiences: Paul McCartney, The Who, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Jack White, The Polyphonic Spree, etc.
However, you may notice a pattern: rock ‘n’ roll all the way. If you don’t count the symphonies and other classical events, every concert I have ever attended would land in the world of rock ‘n’ roll (if you zoomed out far enough and ignored sub-genres of course).
So when I saw that Panda Bear would be performing at the Granada Theater in Dallas, I jumped at the opportunity to branch out in my live music experience.
For those of you unfamiliar with Panda Bear, he is one of the founders of the experimental band Animal Collective. If that doesn’t ring a bell either, do yourself a favor and try out Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion – their newest, most accessible, and best album (in my opinion).
Panda Bear, AKA Noah Lennox, specializes in using all sorts of beats, samples, and other effects to create a whirlwind of hypnotic sounds that would seem to go on and on and on if it were not for his gift with melody.
Take “Comfy in Nautica,” one of his biggest hits, for example: the entire song is one chord played over and over again, but the sincerity and evolution of the melody keeps the listener ensnared from beginning to end.
Now we arrive at the concert itself. Normally, when entering a venue, one of my first actions is to analyze and take in all of the gear onstage: the amps, the guitars, the keyboards, the effects, the setup, etc.
Panda Bear has a slightly different setup than your standard guitar, bass, drums, and mics.
From where I was standing, I saw a bunch of effects pedals, a single guitar, a bizarre mixer of sorts, and a number of other unidentifiable items strewn out on a table all held together by dozens of different cables flowing to and fro all over the stage.
Last but not least, I’m proud to say that I own the exact same synthesizer as Panda Bear: the Moog Minimoog Electric Blue Voyager:
The iconic blue lights caught my eye, and there’s no doubt that it was up on stage rocking hard and true.
As far the show itself, I have two main words: hypnotic and loud.
Let’s start with the former: for all I know, the show could have been a few minutes or a few hours. Once it got going, you found yourself along for the ride. You might have no idea as to what words were being said or where you were at in a song, but it didn’t matter since the melody, as mentioned before, would carry you along up and above the beats and the madness as though you could look down upon it from high above.
And the latter: those beats I just mentioned? So incredibly loud – as in making your whole body shake and resulting a difficulty breathing. I will never go to an electronic show again without ear plugs. Why would one guy on stage be louder than an entire band you ask? I have three theories:
1) No acoustic instruments: with the exception of the guitar, everything was some form of synthesis or samples, therefore everything could just be turned up and up and up in volume and intensity.
2) Harmonics: the timbre, or tone, of every acoustic instrument (including our voices) comes from something called the harmonic series of overtones. By activating different groups of these harmonics, we get different types of instrumental sounds. It’s the reason a trumpet sounds like a trumpet and not an oboe. However, in the world of electronics and synthesis, you have control over these harmonics, and, if you feel so inclined, you can turn them all on, thus creating walls of huge, deafening sound. Effective but so loud.
3) Making up for not having a band: part of the joy of seeing a full group is their stage presence. Seeing a group of people rock out and totally lose themselves in the experience is incredibly powerful. When you’re one guy, alone on a stage with some gear, you need some extra oomph and power to convey the same feelings and message.
All in all, a swell show to be sure. In general, I’ll happily take my rock ‘n’ roll bands, but variety is always welcome.
And, last but not even close to least, who was at the Granada that same night? The Flaming Lips frontman: Wayne Coyne. If you don’t know him, this picture will give you a good idea of his awesome personality.
People would see him in the crowd and run after him in a frenzy. They would return moments later and scream in utter joy (to whoever would listen) that Wayne had hugged them and told them that he loved them. You don’t find many people who command such a wonderful effect on those around them.
That said, Panda Bear and The Flaming Lips: now there’s a concert waiting to happen.