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Panda Bear At Webster Hall, Saturday, October 3rd, 2011

It is really simple. If you are playing for living creatures who have paid for the privilege, for fuck's sake acknowledge them. Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear does acknowledge with a brief "thank you, I've enjoyed" but otherwise seems so wrapped in the sounds generating from two banks of computer that Spaceman 3's Sonic Boom is busy mixing and his electric guitar , that we are to Noah what Danny Perez's the film and light show are to us: distractions.

So with every reason to be a crushing bore, the Animal Collective member should have been a crushing bore but the experimental musician wasn't. That's because between the sound textures and modulated vocals, guitars, everything, there are layers of melody. For every "Drone there is a "Down At The Jetty" -a really good pop singer hidden in banks of noise and sound effects mixed loud live. Call it chillwave at your own peril.

Panda Bear, along with his producer Rusty Santos, stand behind the computers and twiddle knobs, Noah sings and very well and plays straight up electric guitar. The audience are appreciative in a nerdy collegiate way. They nod their heads in time to the beat and sway from side to side.

The images and folm being shown above Panda Bear are Danny's mood enhancers, animated designs floating in time to the beat undercut with strange film of stuff like people throwing themselves at walls in slow-mo, the grim reaper, a woman bobbing in the ocean: it is a little scary, a little anxiety enhancing and a little irrelevant.

Meanwhile Noah and Sonic Boom play with the album, Tomboy (which I underestimated when it first came out) as well as oldie "Bros" and stretch them tauntly while maintaining a heavy back beat. The title track is excellent, "Drone" is strange , insular and annoying, "Jetty" and "Count On Me" are catchy and fun, "Afterburner" a parallel universe soul song. And everywhere, the lines between tech indie and dance are clear. They use the same instruments and come from similar places but ended up miles apart.

Meanwhile, there is something so distant about Noah -he reminds me of Jesse Eisenberg portraying Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network; with his hoody and his guitar and his lack f movement and really energy of any sort except in the way he strains his neck when he songs, he appears to be disconnected from what's going on around him. It is an alarming performance by the experimental musician, not least because the music is so captivating.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed the performance, but I enjoyed the evening. I forgave the lack of performance because the music was so beautiful.  Usually, a live performance will effect my feelings about a musicians recorded work. Not this time. This time I came out feeling exactly the same about Panda Bear as when I went in. I liked him a lot.

Grade: B+

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