The Pandaman has already rocked out one May-time diary, a one-off ‘special’ from The Great Escape, but the past month has been much, much more than gallivanting around right-on Brighton Village. We start in the intimate indie surroundings of Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes in Old Street, still our fave new London venue. Diary Of A Pandaman regulars ENJOYABLE LISTENS are headlining in their usual extrovert bar-clambering manner, but they are challenged heartily on the showbiz front by BAG OF CANS, a bunch of reprobates from Norfolk. Theirs is a suitably baggy and canny sound which blurs together the more raucous connivings of Blur with the even more ribald thunderings of fellow East Angularians Dingus Khan, i.e. lots of big tunes and tonnes of alt.pop.rock fun a’plenty. We’ll see them again in Norwich City at the end of June.
Right at the other end of the musical, and indeed gigging, scale, “We’re f***ing WITCH FEVER!” goes the shout. Well it’s more of a scream actually. From 80 people to Old Street to 30,000 emo kids at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes we go, with the Mancunian quartet opening up for MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE at the bright-eyed hour of 5.30pm. This is handy for us, as we contrived to miss Witch Fever at The Great Escape, not that you can actually miss much about them in full musical flow. For theirs is a hysterically stern noise, dense and intense with much hollering and raging against the patriachal machine. They’re skilled, too – support slots with Idles have imbued with them with a stadium-sized confidence as they veer from spidery gothic grumblings to a doomy wall of rock gloom, like L7 gone sludgecore. It’s not entirely pleasant but I suppose that’s hardly the point when you’re trying to make a point. “This is ‘Reincarnate’ – enjoy.” they deadpan. Note the lack of any exclamation mark.
If Witch Fever do a very good job of giving the impression that they really don’t care, LOSTALONE very much do care a lot. Singer Steven Battelle is decked out in a lurid orange coat which outshines even the many MK stewards’ luminous attire, and the stageshow is no less effervescent, all arm-waving sing-along-ing crowd-manipulating fun. It’s exhausting, frankly, and fittingly Lostalone are enormously melodic, chundering and thundering and generally running to the hills. It’s boldy anthemic, almost to the point of chundering, thundering collapse, and there’s a tiny little bit of Wiz from Mega City 4 in there in terms of the shiny vocal delivery, which makes at least four people in here very happy. Verily, the last time Stadium MK witnessed anything this blatantly, fragrantly rock’n’roll was when Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth’s mane was flowing on the touchline during the ELF League Two Play-offs.
If Lostlone’s seventeen year stint marks them down as metal stalwarts then PLACEBO must virtually qualify as poison pensioners, which means that frontman Brian Molko’s voice is incredibly well-preserved considering the scorching pace in which they set off at in 1995, when fierce panda signed them after just the four gigs. Placebo aren’t metal, but they are gently mental – back then it was all fraught indie rattlers like ‘Bruise Pristine’ and ‘Nancy Boy’ with a brittle sonic youth clubbing edge, now it’s enormous electro rockings ahoy with barbish Barbie-snapping lyrics and volatile guitars. Theirs is still a search for the biggest choruses, a quest to uncover the fruitiest, most impactful melodic surges, all wrapped up in a comfort blanket of stormtrooping hysteria which, curiously, would now make them excellent touring partners with Gary Numan. “Grow fins, go back in the water” urges Molko, saving the planet as he goes raving into middle age.
My Chemical Romance’s frontman Gerard Way’s teenager days are also way behind him, but the showman still shows up as a bloodied man in a white suit, staggering onstage as the sun goes down. It’s one part ‘The Mummy’, two parts ‘Clockwork Orange’ and an entire she’s-in-parties Agatha Christie murder mystery, which is, in a way, MCR in a bats*** nutshell: occasionally murderous; sometimes creepy and radical; very often a classic rock’n’roll mystery wrapped in a ball of dark drama. So as they romp through two decades’ worth of worthy screamo dynamics there are dashes of punkish hullabaloo, reckless riffings and chaotic choruses bouncing around. It’s gleefully upbeat, sensationally emotive and excellent emotainment – there are some great quips about the merits of waving real lighters versus illuminated smartphones, lots of crawling around on all fours and a song called ‘Boy Division’. “He’s like The Joker for depressed women,” muses a passing Scout. For this Thursday at least, nothing is going to rain on their blacker-than-black parade.
May ends right back at the other end of the gigging scale, in a sold out Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston, where QUINN OULTON is serenading the basement masses. As befits the cool venue vibe, Quinn is a man with a saxophone and a sultry vibe. It’s the kind of show where people applaud the sax solos mid-song. What will propel Quinn speedily out of glamorous dives like this is a great singing voice which errs on the gruffly melodic side of Guy Garvey and a band that gives him some suitably genteel Elbow-shaped backing. Not quite stadium-sized yet, but definitely the soundest of foundations to build on.
PANDAMAN’S 2022 GIGGING TOTAL: 134