Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) didn’t exactly have the sunset slot on CRSSD Fest’s closing day Sunday, but he may as well have. With only 40 quick minutes on the Ocean View Live stage, the experimental musician and DJ found his own way to spectacularly usher in the night.
His mesmerizing set, juxtaposed with the sinking sun near the water, made it impossible to look away.
Lennox, however, didn’t look anywhere at all. His eyes remained firmly closed for the entirety of the performance. He sang. He wailed. He played a crazy-looking sampler and synthesizer workstation. But he spent every second of it with his eyes closed.
The audience had the opposite problem. There were so many things drawing your attention, it was difficult to decide where to focus.
The crazy-looking sampler and synth workstation looked more like a phone operator’s board from 1940 than a traditional DJ setup. But Lennox played it as smoothly as a classically-trained pianist on a baby grand.
The triple video screens of the main stage got a significant workout during Lennox’s set, as well.
The hypnotic visuals, first serene and bright, got exponentially more foreboding as the set progressed, almost as if Lennox was taking the lead from that psychedelic boat ride in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
There were images of monsters and Gummi bears, prismatic colors and dirty cartoons. Things morphed quickly - from a group of naked blue women dancing to a pile of snakes - and back again.
Even quick flashes of Capt’n Crunch, Skeletor and a distorted Cookie Monster were thrown in there for good measure.
Musically, Lennox played tracks from “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper,” his fifth LP that was released in January. “Mr. Noah,” “Principe Real” and “Come To Your Senses” were all included.
As evening Southwest flights sailed in behind him, the stoic performer appropriately closed with “Acid Wash,” the same song that closes the album.
On screen, as three wildly painted women let ooze drip from their mouths, the unsettling video helped those who weren’t already on some kind of psychotropic enhancement get a bit of the feeling.
But as much as Lennox’s music pushed the boundaries, so did his visuals.
Exactly 40 minutes after starting, Lennox opened his eyes, said, “Thanks very much. Enjoy the festival,” and walked off stage.
Although it was short, Panda Bear’s beautifully strange set at CRSSD Festival was easily one of the most memorable.
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