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Review: Panda Bear @ Pitchfork Music Festival

The most telling moment of Panda Bear’s set at the Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend was when a man desperately yelled something along the lines of, “Please, I’m on mushrooms!”

This eruption wasn’t out of line ’cause the first half of Panda Bear’s set was nothing less than abrasive and experimental. The tripped-out man was expressing a generally accepted notion that Panda was testing us, pushing us, not giving a fuck about us, as he unraveled (presumably) the wealth of his upcoming album Tomboy. Panda took no time, especially in the first twenty or so minutes to play around with the tougher, less melodic, less pleasant part of his new material. For me, I found it awesome; to be certain, Panda Bear approached his set at Pitchfork like few other bands. That is, he had no apologies, no explanations for the sonic assault he levied upon us. He wasn’t there to please (at least initially) but rather to challenge us.

His set began with an oddly timed progression of thick synth tones punctuated by ozarkian throttles of his voice. As the set evolved, Panda’s vocals became a balance between periodic shrieks and beach-front ambiance. Likewise, the music, which came on first like a noise-mission from the likes of Yellow Swans, eventually gave way to minimal dance beats, warm synth fuzz, and stunning chord progressions strummed fruitfully over his wildly processed guitar. In short, if you stuck around for the whole set, there was no denying its unavoidable and extremely enjoyable arc. It began with Panda making some fine noise and ended much in the same way: as fine, beautiful noise. In all it was one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen in months. Tomboy is out later this year.

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