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Review: Panda Bear & Sonic Boom @ The Fleece

Giovanni Della-Savina reviews the Panda Bear and Sonic Boom gig at The Fleece.

By Giovanni Della-Savina, Third Year Philosophy

We missed the support because we met Mohammed. He was a pretty nice guy who came up to us to ask for a cigarette and to check that he hadn’t stained his crotch by spilling his magnum.

He was very enthusiastic about the distribution and scale of the global Somali diaspora. He seemed to enjoy our company and asked what we were doing next, he suggested we go to a bar. At this stage his conversation took a distinctly theological turn and he explained how much he loved humans. We explained we were going to a gig but that it was sold out. He now told us about his love for music. He fancied his chances, so we crossed the road. Somewhere in the middle of it he threw an empty magnum bottle on an impressive arc and it made a pleasant sliding crash along the road.

Then we were outside The Fleece, which is one of my favourite early 19th C buildings in Bristol. It was built to accommodate the wool trade, hence its proper name The Wool Hall. its position meant that sheep would not have to be herded across the Bristol Bridge every day. It was designed by Richard Pope, whose influence over the city’s architecture from the 1830-70s was immense because of his role as the district surveyor. You will undoubtedly know the Arnolfini, one of his other buildings, which is arguably a relative of the wool hall, both being constructed for industrial purposes with nevertheless distinctly ornamental facades and being the earliest precedents of the Bristol Byzantine style.

The wool hall has been described as "the first quasi-industrial building in Bristol to attempt a real architectural facade" and is grade II listed. It’s also partly made from pennant stone, a type of sandstone from South Wales that a lot of this city is made from. Have a look for it, once you recognise it, you’ll see it everywhere. I’m not sure what its acoustic properties are like. The Arnolfini is the only other place made with a lot of it which you can hear music in, but the cinema/music room there is very different from the fleece. These are some of the things I thought when I saw the sign for the fleece.

We arrived at the door and went inside. It emerged that the gig had sold out and Mohammed seemed out of luck. He spent a good five minutes talking to the bouncers and I really did fancy his odds, but it didn’t seem to happen. We went for a final cigarette with him to say goodbye and he kissed my forehead but warned us not to say hello to him if we saw him again. I was sad he didn’t get to come in, I think we would have had a fun night. We briefly considered not entering and going drinking with hum instead, but I knew I had this to write and that it would probably be in bad faith not to go inside.

Whilst it was less busy, we looked at the merch table which had a selection of goods on it. They were selling £7 packs of Panda Bear themed rolling papers which I guess is kind of funny if you like weed. I imagine there are some Panda Bear fans who do like weed but I didn’t see the number of papers on the table go down much so it is hard to really say for certain whether these were a good business move. The floor at the fleece is really nasty and there are too many people inside. I don’t understand why anyone would want to listen to music in a room that full.

I think it would probably be better if the audience hadn’t mostly been middle aged men who somehow don’t know what shape and size they are. Men like this do not step forwards and fill gaps, which changes an already cramped venue into hell. I often stare at their faces and wonder why they do not take the half step forwards that would stop me from being pressed into their shoulder but there are some things that nobody except God knows. The fact that people insist on constant a stream of alcohol and urine when they listen to rock music only makes this worse.

They played the Panda Bear and Sonic Boom album. It sounded a lot like it does. If that sounds interesting to you, my advice is to listen to it. If that’s still not enough, consider going to hear it live, where you will hear it again but enjoy the new thrill of being surrounded by large men. I didn’t know much about Sonic Boom so it didn’t help that he spoke more than Panda Bear. Since this night I’ve realised, he is a part of experimental audio research which is a nice project. The visuals were pretty nice but were probably part of why the guy in the toilet wished it was 2009.

I went to the toilet and a guy was expressing his regret that it wasn’t 2009 anymore. He said that although times were tough then he had listened to music like this in fields a lot, he thought that doing this had helped him get through tough times. This is another suggestion on how you could try listening to Panda Bear.  I once tried to do this by a creek, but it didn’t go very well and I upset a friend. I admired his sentiment. The man did not know his ears would soon be rewarded.

They stopped playing music and people clapped and stood still. I found this confusing because I wanted to leave. No one else seemed to want to leave. They must have tried a field and decided the fleece is better. It turned out they were demanding more music. This got given to them, since they were a ‘great crowd’. I’m not sure why they were a great crowd because no one was moving but maybe that is what they want because Panda Bear was also not moving. Panda Bear acknowledged the encore was fake but said he sometimes would surprise crowds. I’m not sure what this meant. They took turns to play their songs. Panda Bear did play some songs that you might have listened to in 2009 and this were a nice moment. I felt a nice feeling thinking about the guy I eavesdropped on in the toilet.

Then the music was over. My friend had lost their phone but then we found it which was nice. We waited until Panda Bear came out at the end, which means I can reveal to you that his new album sounds a bit like Basic Channel. And that there is a new Animal Collective album soon. This was nice to hear, I like Basic Channel. I thought a minute about how I kind of wished I was listening to Basic Channel but to be honest I don’t derive the same satisfaction from them I did 3 years ago. This is a shame, but there are many years where this could change.

Then we went home. It was nice to have seen someone from animal collective but I’m not sure if I enjoyed going to a gig at The Fleece. It is a nice building and maybe one day there will be sheep there again which I think I would prefer. Overall, it was normal and nice. It was nice to meet Mohammed too. I would probably do something like this night again.

Featured image: Domino Records

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