So that’s what a Panda Bear solo show looks like

by | Sep 18, 2014 | MUSIC

Tuesday night, C-ville’s Jefferson Theater played host to one of the most unique and ground breaking solo artists of the last decade and the only thing better than the show itself was joy I felt learning how it was all done in a live setting.

Tuesday night, C-ville’s Jefferson Theater played host to one of the most unique and ground breaking solo artists of the last decade and the only thing better than the show itself was joy I felt learning how it was all done in a live setting.

Panda Bear, one part of weird-indie legends Animal Collective, has been touring around the world ahead of his next album tentatively titled Panda Bear meets the Grim Reaper. The set we saw Tuesday consisted almost entirely of new material with a few tracks from 2011’s Tomboy. Sadly, not a single track from Person Pitch made it on stage that night.

I’d had the pleasure of catching Animal Collective a few years back when they were touring off of Merriweather Post Pavilion. By this point, the band had moved past their youthful days of legendary out-of-this-world live performances and found themselves attached to synths for entire sets. Their more popular dance-y tracks would get the audience riled up only to be dropped back on their faces as they moved into mellow noise jams or epic delay-filled loops.

This roller coaster is what I feared most from Tuesday’s set – not to mention Panda Bear’s massive wall-of-sound.

How the hell would he keep an audience on their toes when there are as many mellow slow-jamz in his catalog as their are up-beat booty-shakers? And how the hell could one man create so much noise by himself?

Well good news, his live set was both engaging and booty shake’n, with the ability to maintain at least a arms-crossed-hipster-head-bob throughout.

Panda Bear himself walked out on stage (to zero fanfare) to adjust his sound-molding podium before the set started. Yes, the entire set was orchestrated by Panda Bear alone with a podium sized synth-rack.

It could have fit in a large suite case if it wasn’t probably made of hilariously unique and sensitive electronics.

As the set progressed, new tracks were built before us, often following a bass line -> beat -> noise bath -> vocals -> repeat methodology. More often than not, he would be holding the mic with one hand and turning a single knob or two with the other. But don’t think his sound was any smaller or less full from the lack of a backing band or even more complicated equipment – quite the opposite in fact. The reverb and bass enveloped all who could hear it in a warm glow and the worldly beats made hearts pound hard.

The bat-shit crash visuals didn’t hurt either. My only regret was it was a Tuesday night and I stopped taking acid on weeknights a weeks ago.

One stand out unreleased-track has been floating around the net under the title “Dark Cloud.” Considering the last real published track Panda Bear was involved in was Daft Punk’s “Doing it Right,” you could certainly hear some influence here.

Bootleg recordings simply do not do the track justice, but you can get a feel for how expansive the sound is, and how complicated his live vocal harmonies really are.

Will we get a chance to see Panda Bear this close to RVA any time soon? Probably night – though DC is always possible. And Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper could see the light of day sooner than we think. And personally, I’m pretty excited about that.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at

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