The White Panda brings the house down

By Felicity Werner
Griffin Reporter

“I can’t believe we’re playing in a church right now, this is wild!” With 240 tickets sold pre-sale and 35 at the door, 275 people were in Montante to experience the White Panda and Hotel Garuda event on Friday 23 Oct. The performers’ equipment was set up at the front up on the stage with a metal divider enclosing the front, and the entire main area was cleared of chairs for the night providing plenty of space for the students to crowd up to and around the front of the stage. Montante was a good choice of venue, the high ceilings provided enough airflow that the heat from the people crowded around you didn’t become stifling, and it was spectacular to watch the flashing colored lights bounce over the architecture and artwork.

Originally, the concert was proposed to take place in the Koessler Athletic Center or the KAC’s upper parking lot, but due to uncertainties in the athletic schedule and weather Montante was chosen instead. The solid brick integrity of the building acted as a good noise buffer, again proving the location was a good choice.

The Student Programming Board, the organization responsible for putting on the event, first thought of choosing these performers for the fall concert through an affiliate, an organization called Concert Ideas. Concert Ideas is a professional college talent agency/buyer which has also played a part in bringing Love and Theft, Bo Burnham, and Phillip Phillips to campus for performances in the past.

Vincent Bargnes had a hand in selecting The White Panda and Hotel Garuda since as a special events coordinator on SPB he was assigned the Fall Event. He says that it was important to him to make the event a concert, and since the most recent concerts were country and pop-folk-rock, he decided to try something new with an EDM performer.

“No big name EDM artist has been brought in for a large-scale event at Canisius before, and I realized that EDM can encompass many popular genres,” says Bargnes. “EDM seemed to be a perfect fit and I chose White Panda due to their success on college campuses such as Binghamton University and American University, and their name recognition among EDM fans.”

The opener, Hotel Garuda, was one-man-down from a duo, but still had the crowd jumping. The opener stoked the crowd with beats mixed from generic dance and “club” music, all the while incorporating familiar vocals from pop and rap songs.

Overall he had a low energy, mostly standing in one place and rarely interacting with the crowd except for the occasional brief introduction to a song with something like, “You guys are gonna like this one!” or, “I know you know the words to this one!”

Most of the people who arrived got to the show only near the end of the opener or during the intermission before The White Panda went on. During the intermission, which was over ten minutes long, security was strict and people were not allowed to reenter after going out to get air or have a smoke, even with their ticket stubs. Instead those who wanted to be able to see The White Panda were forced to remain inside while waiting for the set change, or else be prohibited from returning.

The White Panda posed as a stark contrast to Hotel Garuda. They were perpetually energetic, throwing their hands in the air with panda-masked heads thrown back to scream out the lyrics of their favorite songs. They would leave their spot from behind the DJ table to run up to the crowd, interacting with them and involving them in the action with requests such as, “let me see those hands in the air!” and, “I wanna see you jump Canisius!”

Behind their station, with Macbooks open and hands on the fader, the duo was identically adorned with LED panda-type masks which covered the whole face except their mouth and chin. They lit up with a string of LEDs along the outline of the masks, around the eyes, and in the bear-ears. The LEDs changed colors and flashed in time with the songs, displaying a wide variety of sequences and functions. The lights on stage also added significantly to the show, incorporating strobes and multi-colored spotlights that flashed both on the stage and out into the crowd, really amplifying the party-type atmosphere. The White Panda also had background visuals which were absent during the performance of Hotel Garuda, which consisted mainly of projections on the back-wall of swirling patterns and things. All these elements: the strobe, colors, projections, masks, and the onstage movements of the performers all contributed to a stunning visual experience in conjunction to the music.

The music played by The White Panda covered the most basic forms of three popular EDM genres: Big Room House, Melbourne bounce, and Trap. The duo used well-known songs from these genres as backbeats for their music in combination with vocals from both common rap songs and pop music, like those played repeatedly on basic radio every day, including hits from the past year like Taylor Swift and The Weeknd as well as throwback hits like “Forever Young.” They seemed like good choices for the show according to the amount of students who were familiar with all the songs and couldn’t resist screaming and singing along once their “jam” came on.

Although the masks which they wore were visually stunning, it’s hard to not wonder how difficult it is to see out through the eye-holes while they are lit up like a flashlight beam to the retinas. Their difficulty seemed apparent when on more than one occasion their tech manager had to come up onto the stage and help them with the soundboard and computer software, though to their credit they did a good job at not letting these moments keep them from sustaining the crowd’s energy and the flow of the song. All in attendance seemed to be having the time of their lives; students were crammed body-to-body dancing or jumping in time to the beat, smiling, laughing and singing along with their friends. Everyone was so active that the heat generated in the thick of the mass right next to the stage left students dripping in sweat and left one student to loudly exclaim, “It’s hotter than Firefly up in here!” (For those who are unaware, Firefly was an EDM festival held over the summer in which several attendees were treated for heatstroke). People in the crowd were really unafraid to let loose at the concert, with some people high up on their friend’s shoulders and others with their torsos leaned far over the stage-divider, people were fist-pumping, head-bobbing, hip shaking, and all sorts of dance moves from the generic to the fantastic.

Although all the students appeared to have a lot of fun at the event, it left a lot to be desired by the more EDM-savy students who felt unimpressed by both performers lack of originality in mixes and generic sound. One student commented “Both played low risk sets, sticking to the mainstream crowd pleasers; but they read the audience well. Overall it was a decent way to pass the evening but not a very memorable show.”

Bargnes claims the amount of positive feedback that SPB has already received regarding the show is astounding. He was happy to report that, “we were able to appeal to different student demographics than in previous events, and give ticket holders an incredible, unique experience.”

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