If boldy attempting to see 365 live performances this year was one giant insane step too far for indiekind, at least the live soundtrack to the Pandaman’s curiously nomadic life is often eerily fitting. Exhibit A: a Sunday night at the cavernous New Century venue in Manchester, where NOS DOMOS turn out to be a clutch hyperhyped hip-hop jazz cats from Tokyo with a saxomaphone and a three-pronged Japanese rap attack. One of these people is called Zo Zhit, which possibly makes us slightly happier than it should do.
Exhibit B is BLACK MIDI, who are next on and, judging by the rabid 1500-strong crowd – on a Sunday, when Fontaines DC are playing up the road – possibly more popular than their brand of honk-dunking splatter jazz could ever seriously expect to become. Three albums and a slew of arty other releases in since forming at Brit School in 2017, their avant garde pummellings are terrifically unguarded, a shattered wall of sound which takes in hard jazz, soft pop and several manic noodly bits in between.
It is of course gibbering art-of-noise nonsense, but it is brilliantly performed gibbering art-of-noise nonsense. While some of their dour post-rock predecessors always hid in the shadows Black Midi deliver a proper crowd-embracing modern rock show, albeit a fluid and frantic modern rock show which just so happens to just occasionally sound like a flight of stairs of falling down a flight of stairs.
Exhibits C, D and Etcetera lurk in various wintry pockets across the country: the panda-faced gothic intensity of one-man wrecking ball THE MARIJANOVIC at Norwich Voodoo Daddy; the accurately-named groove machine that is ASTROFUNKEN at the Castle & Falcon in Birmingham; the even-more-accurately named FERAL FAMILY, who create excellently doomed indie dramatics at Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes in sunny Shoreditch village. Even TIM BURGESS is taking time from his absolutely normal dayjob as The Charlatans’ front man to bring his band of troubadours and pop believers to Kings Cross Lafayette to chew through some sweet-hearted melodies, although a brief diversion into ‘The Only One I Know’ gets the odd old school baggy pulse racing.
Come the end of the month the old Pandaman is chaperoned by small daughter Scout to The Forum in London Town to see one of her favourite new bands, MOTHER MOTHER. A local news story once claimed that Mother Mother must really love fellow countrymen Nickelback, because without Nickelback Mother Mother would be the most hated band in Canada. Laugh? We almost went for dinner with the press officer. Yet far from Chad Kroeger’s misanthropic miseryballs anthems Mother Mother peddle a berserk pop sensibility built to blast through the hearts and minds of a room full of adolescent screaming girls and their alarmed father fathers.
It really is extraordinary. Within 15 minutes Mother Mother are charging through a version of ‘Creep’ that sounds shiny and showbiz, like Queen gone twerky. Not that they need to rely on covers – with eight albums under their collective star-spangled belt they are almost as prolific as Black Midi, the main difference being half the MM set sounds like a bouyant sound and Eurovision tribute to ‘Toy Soldiers’ by Martika.
At the heart of it all is the force of nature that is Ryan Guldemond, guitarist, singer and all round good ol’ boy. He is flanked by all-singing, all-dancing, all-synthing duo of Molly and Jasmin, one of whom is Ryan’s sister. It’s a rock schlock TikTok opera, Meat Loaf lite and, frankly, cheesier than a Wotsits-sponsored fondue party in the gorgeous jaws of Cheddar Gorge. The teenage Scouts scream their furiously beating hearts out. The wide-eyed girl next to the bar stuffs her mobile in to her overjoyed bosom and gets set to prance the night away.
Just when you think things couldn’t be any more sugar-coated Ryan Guldemond has some homespun yarns to deliver. He thanks his band, he thanks Dead Pony, the support band we missed due to a dead trainline. He thanks the crowd, the security, the merchandise staff, he even defines the word misanthropic for us all, y’all. In short, he makes Chris Martin look like a total git.
Man, the mainstream is weird.
THE PANDAMAN’S 2022 PERFORMANCE TOTAL: 295