Derwin R. Powers (aka Gold Panda, aka Derwin Panda) had few words for his audience at Webster Hall Friday night. But there wasn’t an inkling of bashfulness to extort from the performer, most of the set propelled by his self-sustaining, internalized ferocity. Head lowered in reverence, his gaunt form would stay crouched over his table, suddenly bounding upwards on time to syncopated rhythms. There were silent sentiments exchanged between the crowd and the solo, now Berlin-based, artist. It was a collective understanding, a singular motivation to abandon, for the moment, the present and relinquish oneself to the dance.
The man behind the trippy, neon mask looked unassuming, frightened even, as he took to center stage. A tidal wave of thunder tore into the floor with his first daunting beat of a snare drum, and suddenly that man had gone leaving opener Slow Magic in his wake. Wielding two drumsticks, he programmed a few parrying rhythms and then stepped aside to texturize the sound with an exhilarating, spastic-like percussive breakdown. Not once, but twice did Slow Magic — snare drum in tow — climb over the photo pit partition and join the ensuing ground-level dance party. “Feel Flows” and “On Yr Side” were some of his more impressive tracks, diverting from the studio recordings to showcase his mad chops on the bass drum. Sticks pointed to the heavens, Slow Magic’s true talent was his relationship to silence. Those sickening suspended moments when the beat has wavered off and dissipated, nothing but a distant quake, only to return in jolting, tumultuous ecstasy.
Friday night marked Gold Panda’s third to last date of a sprawling, four-month world tour, much of which was accompanied by Slow Magic. His expressions were weary when there was enough light to expose his face. Not overtly downcast, Derwin seemed to exhibit a somber, spiritual kind of complacency. Tracks like “Brazil” show the London-native producer has acclimated to the characteristically lethargic minimalism of Berlin permeated in dank, disheveled party spaces. Familiar melodies augmented listlessly, doubled over in breadth as if filtered through an ocean of delirium. On a rendition of “Quitter’s Raga” the rhythm was spliced in half, rearranged as a down tempo two-step that opened itself up to a bevy of lucid, fractured synth. Similar edits were made to “Back Home” and “Vanilla Minus,” curating a preemptive assemblage of swelling sounds.
Unmarred by fancy lighting, Gold Panda stayed largely obscured in milky clouds of smoke, cascading down from the otherwise deserted balcony. Halfway through the set, a sea of jiving, synchronized bodies extended to the back of the room in what had very recently been empty space. The atmosphere was fluid, transient, harmonious as Gold Panda prompted the start of crowd favourite “You.” With no fanfare he returned for an encore reprise of “Quitter’s Raga,” this time assuming the same frantic euphony as the original tempo. The sound sweltered from above, had fans jumping up and reaching for that great, unattainable high. Derwin thanked the crowd before exiting the stage. His face became flushed red, embarrassed at his ability to send an audience of fans into such orgiastic upheaval. Check out the Slow Magic remix of Gold Panda’s “Brazil” below.
Photos by Angel E. Fraden