Pantha Du Prince & the Bell Laboratory Maison Symphonique, Montreal QC, June 2
Published Jun 03, 2013Nils Frahm generously agreed to step in tonight as the opening act at the Maison Symphonique when a cancellation opened up a free slot in the programming. Repeating his Thursday night set, but with added experimentation and extra energy and having ironed out all the kinks from his first performance, it was hard to imagine how Pantha Du Prince was going to follow such a stunning performance. Six figures, including Hendrik Weber (aka Pantha Du Prince) himself, entered the stage in front of a vast array of percussion wearing white shirts and aprons, ringing bells in perfect time while coming to stand in a semi-circle at the centre of the stage. After a time, Weber put down his bells and moved to his laptop and the others took their places playing triangles, chimes, a kit drum and various gongs and bells in a slow build. A four-on-the-floor beat sounded magnificent in the acoustics of the concert hall as the rest of the sextet played on, bathed in dry ice and green lights as their shadows were cast on a large, white backdrop. At one point the sextet played woodblocks with hinged beaters, and the impact felt when they went back to their percussion set-ups had people spontaneously dancing in the aisles while others in the middle chair-danced, grinning at each other. As the piece simmered down, the musicians walked through the aisles ringing bells and exited through the back of the auditorium to rapturous applause. The ensemble came back on for an encore beginning with "Lay In A Shimmer," to which the whole crowd rose from their seats to dance. As the sextet went offstage, the xylophone player paused to take a photo of the crowd on his phone. Sometimes you forget the transformative power of music to build community and connect people, breaking down the barriers we learn to build up, and it's a precious thing when a performance can break down those barriers and deliver such a shared and joyous experience. It was a perfect translation of Weber's electronic compositions into a percussion context, and one hell of an end to MUTEK's A/V series for this year.