So in the end the Pandaman didn’t manage it. Our task was simple: go see 365 live music performances in 2022. Our failure was even simpler: a lethal combination of illness, train strikes and two-bloody-band-bills scuppered our frankly fruity dreams. Even in the final straight, in the run up and indeed countdown to Christmas, on one weekend the absence of any chuffing action on Greater Anglia means we miss two multi-band events headlined by GULZ at 93 Feet East and JOHNNY MOPED at the 100 Club which would have added another ten live showdowns to our total of shows.
Oh, and not forgetting the vagaries of the soccerballing World Cup, which squeezes the pips of our live plannings to the point where we have our very own GARDENING and OLI SWAN both playing on the same evening, at The Waiting Room and the Shacklewell Arms respectively. A chance, if nothing else, to see if they can each hack it playing on a frozen midweek night in Stoke Newington.
No matter, it’s been a pig-out gigging blast. We’ve seen James ‘Blunty’ Blunt, Amyl & The Sniffers, Flaming Lips, My Chemical Romance, Manic Street Preachers, Phoebe Bridgers, Placebo, Lewis Capaldi, Coldplay and, of course, Shed Seven play various big stages along the way. But true to the Pandaman indiehonking spirit we have spent the majority of the year lurking in small, slightly dank rooms checking out small, slightly dank bands clinging on to the first few rungs of the giant pop ladder.
Fittingly then, December should find us heading back to two of our very favouritest small venues: over at Voodoo Daddy in Norwich, adopted local troubadour KITTY PERRIN and her band is headlining a fine East Angularian bill with the likes of BROWN HORSE and SANTA RITA and SAM EAGLE. The vibe is gently countrified and merrily melancholic; the recent passing of Christine McVie elicits some sweet-hearted tributes to Fleetwood Mac; and even the locals seem taken aback at such a passionate turnout for a a bog standard mid-winter Monday evening.
Back at our other fave rave house, Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes in downtown Shoreditch, there are more four band bill thrills with two ace up and comers in the shape of Pandaman regulars NOAH & THE LONERS and their teenpunk thrustings, followed by ENJOYABLE LISTENS’ parade of ever-elegant and eloquent doompop anthems, replete with a suitably sullen cover of ‘Hurt’. They are topped and tailed by Northampton opening solo pop boy EDDZ, who brings a giant boombox and a lovely way with a bruised Pet Shop Boysish backing track, while Anglo-Spanish headliner NADIA SHEIKH proffers powerful guitar anthems with the prettiest of melodies and the merriest of onstage outlooks.
Diligent to the end, while many people are massed in the tinselly mist of office Chrimbo parties the Pandaman ploughs on, finding himself at The Grace in Highbury not once, but twice, in the December crush. The first time is for TOM A SMITH, a teenage sensation from Sunderland, whose new ‘Wolves’ single has a curious Cure undercurrent. If that sounds like an odd reference point for a 17 year old it’s worth bearing in mind the Tom A kid has already been doing this for almost ten years. He’s also already got a great, ballsy voice and a great, bullish band and whispers of ‘the Mackem Sam Fender’ floating around the industry ether. A cute mention too for openers threepiece CUSP, who make the kind of fragrant, feisty big guitar indie pop which would have earned them a major deal or two at the Water Rats in 1996.
The following night in N5 it’s the turn of JUNODREAM, one of the leftfield live scene’s dark horses who are playing a packed charity show. Theirs is a story of stealth and quiet melodrama – they’re slick, but not sickly so; epic, but not overbearingly so; powerful, but not deafeningly so. If there is a line to be drawn it’s perhaps back to ‘The Bends’-era Radiohead, when they were really starting to find their subtle feet, but the lower-cased junodream very much have their own hi-falutin’ take on this grand alt.rock malarkey, with a fervent following that will follow them to the end of the musical earth and beyond 2023.
PANDAMAN’S GRAND TOTAL OF PERFORMANCES FOR 2022: 317