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Panda Bear + Sonic Boom - The Paradise (Boston) - July 18th, 2023

1 August 2023

If you mention psychedelic rock to anyone and ask them to conjure which instrument instantly leaps to their mind, the answer of electric guitar is going to be uttered 99.53% of the time. Spacemen 3 certainly fit that mold, taking the thuggish Stooges attack and compressing it into a thick, dense sludge that stretched time and minds. Animal Collective took a different approach; yes there were guitars but they were de-emphasized over electronic loops and vocals that would weave and wend their way through the song. The joining of Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) and Sonic Boom (aka Sonic Boom) seems an unlikely one, a collision perhaps first set into motion when Animal Collective curated an All Tomorrow’s Parties event in 2011 and invited Spectrum to play.

Peter Kember is no stranger to using electronics as a main component to his music, either as his nom du stage or as Spectrum and even the most cursory listen to Forever Alien would confirm that. The two musicians set up far back from the stage and next to each other, Panda Bear taking the stage right position. The floor in front was pretty sparse aside from two wedge monitors that were more for the audience’s use than the performers and the backdrop behind them showed projections of writhing bodies and psychedelic landscapes throughout their set. Unsurprisingly their set was heavy on Reset, the recent collaboration and first to see Sonic Boom not just in providing recording and mixing duties.

Some of the songs are built using loops of ’50s and ’60s pop songs but the end product is unmistakably Bear/Boom, a mutant and improved version of Vampire Weekend had they listened to many hours of Silver Apples instead of Graceland, with Lennox’s pure and sweet Brian Wilson-esque vocals guiding the songs. Kember would occasionally pepper his electronic doodles, hand claps and vocals with a slide whistle.

The closer “Everything’s Been Leading To This” (and also the album closer) brought a heavier groove to the evening, as if Oneida decided to sit in on this one and put their shoulders behind the song. A generous five song encore of the two’s solo works brought a fitting end to the show.

I’d never heard of Braxe + Falcon before and was surprised to learn they’ve been in the DJ game for over twenty years. Their 2005 release The Upper Cuts landed on Pitchfork’s Best New Reissue list, and they got the crowd moving with some highly danceable beats and some free vodka shots. Santé!