Panamania: A Musical Journey

I’d hinted before that Ewan and I were thrilled with all the free music and artistic performances that were part of the Panamania arts and culture festival that ran in tandem with the Pan Am and Parapan Games. We went to a handful, though truthfully we didn’t even crack the surface as far as cashing in on all the free entertainment, but I thought I’d highlight the sliver of what we saw.

A Tribe Called Red

After one of my first volunteer shifts I stuck around to catch ATCR perform. While the venue we saw them at (Pan Am Park) isn’t all that centrally located, they drew a decent sized (and devoted!) crowd. The group, from Ottawa, takes Native American music and spins it on it’s head by melding it with modern hip hop and electro. I was especially thrilled to catch their performance after seeing them at the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal. In their set they had a hoop dancer come out which added to the cultural experience.

A Tribe Called Red

A Tribe Called Red

Death From Above 1979

Ewan checked out DFA when I was busy at a shift. His thoughts “They did not disappoint. Whether or not you’re a fan of their somewhat chaotic style, the duo had the crowd energized. I don’t think too many free concerts out front of city hall have resulted in crowd surfing.”

Wyclef Jean and Serena Ryder

This was the first show we caught together and ended up being our least favorite. I had grown up to the Fugees and was interested in catching Wyclef. While he was giving it his all, his choice of songs was disappointing. He played mostly tracks on which he’s just featured, and since Shakira and others weren’t there, he basically just let a DJ play the song while he only interjected to randomly shout his back up ‘yeahs’.  I would have been fine and much preferred having him bring in an actual singer or take the talent to showcase a local aspiring singer. Though the worst part of his set was demanding an extra 5 minutes which ate into Serena Ryder’s time; his final song did not do him any favours in my mind.

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean

As for Serena Ryder, well, I wasn’t familiar with her music though she did a decent job of performing. Her ‘Together We Are One’ song was the theme song for the games, played all the time, most notably every night after all musical performances at city hall with a choreographed fireworks display. I am glad they chose a Canadian for the theme song, but overall I don’t think I will be heading to itunes to stock up on her album.

Fireworks

Fireworks every night choreographed to Serena Ryder’s theme song

Five Alarm Funk

This was one of my favourite shows of the games, and in one of the cooler venues, the Distillery District (which was right next to Athletes Village. It was awesome grooving to music alongside the athletes). This group hails from Vancouver and seriously gets you on your feet grooving. They meld ska and funk and have members who make the show a blast with funny statements, ridiculous voices and over the top personalities. This was a show that we didn’t want to end.

Five Alarm Funk

Five Alarm Funk

Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars

This show, also at the Distillery, made me realize how much I missed our World music collection. We were a tad late so squeezed in the back, but still had a great time drinking in the afro-cuban beat. The band was tight and the highlight was the trumpeter whose highpitched wails oozed soul and emotion.

Juan de Marcos

Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars

Kiesza

After a volunteer shift Ewan met me at Pan Am Park where we grabbed a beer and caught Kiesza. We only learned about her when we came back from our trip and saw various years in review compilations from 2014. Since she hails from the same hometown as us (and was in the same Musical Arts performing group as I was) we checked her out only to find that she somehow mastered the 90’s club music, if not sounding even better. Her show was a mix of upbeat dance hits and slowed down tunes. She ended the set with Hideaway and made us both more endeared to her with her very gracious thanks to the audience.

Kiesza

Kiesza

The Flaming Lips

We’ve seen the Lips before, and they held a spot high on our list of the most entertaining bands to watch live. After the show during Panamania though, they’ve not only bolstered that view but have elevated themselves to a level that can’t be beat. From mascots, to the lead singer performing from within an inflated ball on top of the crowd, to confetti, to local shout outs, to just belting out all the songs you know and love…the Flaming Lips killed it.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips – note the person in the orb

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires

We have a soft spot for soul music, that funky stuff fronted by a character who drips with emotion so much it hurts. And that is what Charles Bradley does best. This guy dances, writhes on the ground, cries and even does costume changes. Not bad for a 66 year old. He’s still got it.

Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley – just givin’ it

The Roots

This was Ewan’s hattrick of seeing the Roots, but my first time. I love a good swath of their music but became more familiar with each member of the group based on their nightly performance on the Tonight Show. If anything, their face time has only given me a greater appreciation of how talented each of them are. They gave a stellar performance and played amazingly, giving the crowd a fantastic show. If you get a chance do not miss the mighty Roots crew.

The Roots

The Roots

Overall Panamania was an amazing accompaniment to the games and only puts me in the pro-2024 Summer Olympics group since I think we’d get a whole lot of entertainment and more. Of course the nightly fireworks at City Hall helped, and especially the fantastic fireworks display at the opening and closing ceremonies off of the CN Tower. Doesn’t get anymore epic than that.fireworks opening closing

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    2 thoughts on “Panamania: A Musical Journey

    1. Nice job rocking Panamania! Did you pre-plan or just winged it?
      I hope Torontonians remember how entertaining it was next time the city has an opportunity to showcase its arts & culture scene on a similar scale (maybe a rejuvenated NxNE???) and don’t complain about a couple weeks of extra activity and noise 😉

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