July 22, 2023

Panda Bear / Sonic Boom and Braxe + Falcon played The Knockdown Center

In support of last year's excellent Reset, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom brought the album to Queens with a special opening set from Braxe + Falcon.

For their first proper U.S. tour as a duo, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom tapped French touch icons Alan Braxe and DJ Falcon to open their set and as the sun began to set over New York, the legends brought deep house beats and killer techno beats to Knockdown Center to kick off a bombastic night of dazzling electronic music. Looking effortlessly cool, Braxe + Falcon stood behind their decks and a laptop, sipped drinks, and blew the minds of those who arrived early enough to catch the magic from the legendary DJs. Over electric disco riffs, hard hitting rhythms, and relentless grooves, the duo set the bar high and brought some intense dance vibes to the night early on, almost challenging the crowd to commit to a mood of high-gloss beats before the sun even went down. Playing homage to the city, they threw in a great Blondie sample before dipping into last year's "Love Me" and a glimpse of "Step by Step" before doubling down on their remix of Phoenix's "Winter Solstice." As the room started to fill up, the energy rose and the crowd succumbed to the dance party aesthetics. As things shifted and the audience gave in to the undeniable feelings of total euphoria, they cranked into "Doin' It Right" from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and won over the crowd instantaneously. As the volume increased, so did the overall attitude of the venue and soon enough the full-on rave energy took over and the night transcended into blown-out nirvana. As I hoped and expected, they brought out Panda Bear to cap-off the set with a triumphant rendition of my favorite song of 2022, "Step By Step," performing it live for the first time ever. Witnessing the song come to life in full glory was one of the utmost joy and a musical peak seldom other acts have achieved to reach. As the slowed and mellowed beat fell into place and Panda's vocals hit their extreme falsettos, it was a sensational feeling, one of pure happiness and unyielding bliss.

Following a quick set change, the other duo of the evening, Panda Bear and Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember, took to the stage, each standing behind they own boards of electronic knobs and one-off instruments, and dove into a full performance of their collaborative record from 2022, Reset. While this album may have been their first official time their names have both appeared on the cover, the two are no strangers to working and performing with each other as Sonic Boom has been producing Panda Bear's records and joining him on stage to bring those songs to life for over a decade. Still, for their first outing as an official pair, the duo performed their sole album in full from start to finish, giving each track new life and a fully deserved spotlight. Opening the set with the album's first track "Getting to the Point," Noah Lennox kicked things off with a quick Steve Miller Band cover, incorporating the lyrics to "Swingtown" over the track's acoustic guitar sample, before properly launching into the song. Behind the two, dizzying visuals were non-stop throughout the night with each song getting its own display of stimulating eye candy featuring technicolor whirls and swirls. Crafting each song slowly and showing the inner-workings of just how each tunes comes together was a mesmerizing thing to see, at times Lennox and Kimber resembled Kraftwerk, their stances firmly behind their equipment and other times, Noah would lose himself to the groove and start to dance while Pete would pull out slide whistles and other talismans to create perfect sonic textures that highlighted the playfulness of each song in contrast to the often somber lyrics. Handclaps were in abundance as well, each one keeping the rhythm artfully intact while never losing sight of the other special flourishes that help give live textures and feelings of excitement to the songs. "Everyday" was a buoyant track that bobbed along over sunken vocals while "Whirlpool" brought the psychedelic moments into a spiraling focus. "Livin in the After" was another jubilant number, the doo-wop influence penetrating with gusto as Lennox's vocals bounced with a jovial lilt. For the encore, the dup reached further back into their catalogues and while Sonic Boom's solo material enhanced the trippier moments, it was a deep cut performance of "The Preakness" that really got the crowd hyped and by the time Panda brought the nostalgic "Comfy in Nautica" into the picture, it was a new level enthusiasm from the crowd who were instantly transported back to the kaleidoscopic and harmony-rich tones of his landmark album Person Pitch. It was a solid reminder of the legacy the album still holds and how the sun-faded melodies still hit hard, reviving a feeling of when the neighborhood felt much different, yet one not too far in the past. The free-floating "Tropic of Cancer," it tranquil and wavering melody one that can put you in a hypnotic trance of full-blown harmony concluded the night and capped things off with the most peaceful of comedown elements, sending the crowd home in a haze of blissed-out joy.

Set list:

01 "Gettin' to the Point"
02 "Go On"
03 "Everyday"
04 "Edge of the Edge"
05 "In My Body"
06 "Whirlpool"
07 "Danger"
08 "Livin' in the After"
09 "Everything's Been Leading to This"
10 "Just a Little Piece of Me"
11 "The Preakness"
12 "Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)"
13 "Comfy in Nautica"
14 "Tropic of Cancer"

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