British producer, composer, and electronic artist Gold Panda walked up to an unassuming little table supporting his DJ mixer and turntable at Newspeak on Sunday, Sept. 11. Gold Panda released his third studio album, Good Luck and Do Your Best earlier this year, and has been touring about the world since, which brought him to Montreal that night.
With very little ceremony, he threw up some visuals—four panels featuring a variety of plants—and got to it. His casual attitude offered listeners two paths: One could get completely lost in the visuals of Newspeak, with its pulsing, needle-like lights scattered across the ceiling in an introspective daze, or they could simply rage. Most ended up trying out both.
The opening act was MC Open Mike Eagle (who happens to be the once-college RA of comedian Hannibal Buress). Open Mike Eagle started the night on the introspective note. His incredibly intimate set, with toned down vocals and crisp production, offered a calm start to the night. The rapper crooned about his friends’ financial woes and dropped sensitive and honest bars, with nothing more on stage than some MIDI equipment, a laptop, and an action figure. The performance showed range, skill, and serious emotional appeal as he travelled from heavy-handed beats with amusing lyrics (“The Advice Show”) to softer, thoughtful ruminations on life and success (“Very Much Money”).
The choice in lineup was perplexing: There is not much of a link between Open Mike Eagle and Gold Panda, besides their collaboration on a single song. But the juxtaposition of the two artists at Newspeak was an effective choice. Open Mike Eagle served as a voice for Gold Panda’s lyric-less performance. Gold Panda himself agreed, saying, in conversation with fans after the show, that he let Mike handle the talking part.
It was easy to feel at once disarmed and at ease when Gold Panda floated up to his equipment. The serene nature visuals featured behind him flowed into his crisp electronic beats as he moved about his turntables. And thus, for the initial 45 minutes of his nearly two-hour long show, the audience was entranced, swaying slightly to upbeat tempos.
Just as the audience seemed to be lulled, Gold Panda immediately amped up his tunes, playing one of his older and most popular tracks, “You.” The energies in the room shifted, the fluorescent tube lights above began flashing erratically, and the visuals transformed into digital spikes and swirls. Pushed on solely by the music itself, the room partied as hard as anyone could on a Sunday night, and time began to collapse into itself.
Newspeak’s low ceilings, eccentric lighting, and condensed space created the perfect atmosphere for Gold Panda’s show. Rather than the cavernous cathedrals of most electronic music venues, this show was as intimate as it was distant. Sudden beat switch-ups or breakdowns would crash through the soundscape as reminders of the DJ’s sway over the audience. If a listener got too caught up within themselves, rising tempos and erratic visual changes would soon push them to dance with the people around them.
The night had to come to an end, and Gold Panda finished with a flurry of beats as “Good Luck and Do Your Best” flashed on the screen. Newspeak provided the optimal space, lighting, and sound to allow Gold Panda and Open Mike Eagle put on a performance was as intimate as it was exhilarating. Instead of running off backstage after the show, Gold Panda chose to stand by the speakers, taking time out to talk to fans and followers. Not too far behind the gushing fans, Open Mike Eagle was chatting up a few showgoers at the bar. Though Gold Panda was of the view that talking might disrupt the flow of his music, being able to interact with him after the concert only solidified how personal the show was for its audience.