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Concert Review: Panchiko at Variety Playhouse

Few bands have garnished the cult-like following of Panchiko over the last decade, but if any modern rockers could give them a run for their money, LSD and the Search for God would be at the top of the list. Without ever having had publicly released a studio album, the band still maintains recognition as one of modern shoegaze's top dogs, and on this warm summer evening they set the mood perfectly. Catchy riffs over a wall of fuzzy sound is something that listeners of the genre, and this group in particular, should be all too familiar with, but its always interesting to see how a shoegaze group can translate the music into a live performance. Here is where LSD showed their dexterity and experience, particularly in the rhythmic aspect. Shoegaze drumming often gets downplayed as simple and derivative, but Scott Eberhardt absolutely nailed it on hit songs like "Backwards" and "Starting Over", at times carrying the middle sections of some songs  with crafty fills while Chris Fifield and Andy Liszt were working to achieve that perfect tone. In between songs the band, unsurprisingly, spent no time addressing the crowd, but instead used each songs lingering swirl of fuzz and delay to add a nice ambient feedback interlude between each song, yielding a nice sense of continuity across the set. The 45 some-odd minutes of noise built up into an extended cut of an unreleased song "New," which closed the set perfectly.

Next up were, Horse Jumper of Love, the second of two opening acts, and while the band certainly has a much stronger online presence than that of LSD, their is a one of a kind ethos surrounding the band and their raw, muggy sound that makes them just as mysterious. HJOL have been at the top of my list of personal favorite bands for quite some time now, and last year's album The Natural Part was arguably their best and most complete work to date. The band followed that up with a new mini-album titled Heartbreak Rules, released on May 19th, which saw Dimitri Giannopoulos and company strip their sound back even further and, dare I say, aim for and achieve a more accessible sound, with more conventionally structured songs and catchy hooks. The record is still potent with their iconic, hypnotizing snail like pace instrumentally and quasi-twang on the vocal end, leaving fans and critics alike satisfied with the new release. As for the live show, the trio (a quartet including stage guitarist) opened with a few of the newer songs including "Snake Eyes" and "Heartbreak Rules," and then closed the brief, 30 minute set with fan favorites such as "Bagel Breath" and the iconic "Ugly Brunette." 

And now, after almost two hours of great music, the main event took the stage. Panchiko, to be expected, played many of the songs off of their latest album Failed At Math(s), but did not leave the longtime fans unsatisfied, as they revisited classics such as "D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L", "Laputa", and many more. The bands witty banter and energy, particularly from front man Owain Davies was unmatched, and added a nice boost after the beloved but at times dreary Horse Jumper of Love. Although I certainly came for the opening acts, I was pleasantly surprised with the stage presence of Panchiko and how much they enjoyed being in front of a crowd. For a band with such a mysterious history and unique catalog, they took the stage with a very traditional and exciting mentality, and it seemed the band enjoys and thrives on the dichotomy as much as the fans. 

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