The Giant Panda lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, whereas the Command A Panda lives in the Northern Suburbs of Perth, Australia. Another differentiation is seen within activity, as the Giant Panda tends to limit its social interactions and avoids steeply, sloping terrain to limit its energy expenditures. The Command A Panda can be seen bouncing around its natural habitat on stage and putting on spectaculars such as EP Launches at Amplifier Bar.
Even with the monsoon conditions that the skies had thrown at Perth, the venue filled quickly giving Mirrors At The Arcade (MATA) a welcomed crowd to start off the evening. As Ed Leis beckoned everyone to come closer (Perth can be a little shy) the set list was crammed with an assortment of progressive rock and indie filled reggae, with influences as diverse as Arctic Monkeys, The Dear Hunter, Panic At The Disco, Psychedelic Porn crumpets and My Chemical romance you can see how the varied stylings of their idols have had a lasting effect on their approach to writing music.
‘Fueled by Jealousy’ was a favourite of mine, it is upbeat and filled with driving riffs, a catchy hook and Eds vocals and theatrical performances are a hit with the crowd.
Their structuring and ability to write in a progressive style is a breath of fresh air on stages in Perth and testament to the band’s foundation in musical education. Keir Brown on bass floats effortlessly between complex jazz riffs and heavy rock basslines, locking in tightly with Bill O’Connor on drums they are an extremely tight rhythm section within a diverse band which spans a variety of genres. From indie rock to reggae and jazz fusion there’s something for everyone within MATA’s repertoire.
I particularly loved the artistic approach of ‘Looks Like Trouble’ as Ed spoke about the song and collapsed into a crazed and eerie laugh, it was a perfect way to set up a track that hit home and had the crowd yelling for more. Again, its nuggets like this within performances that set bands aside and it worked for MATA, they know they have the ability to play, Ed can work any crowd and have them in the palm of his hand.
Coming to the end of their set with ‘Wrath’ a heavy bass driven track oozed the stylings of Geezer Butler and Black Sabbath, the audience lapped it up, setting them up for the bands to follow.
Their musical style works, and looking back on the evening the fusion fit so well alongside the other bands. The lads are still very early on in their career and I can’t wait to see what songwriting process and stage presence will bring for them in 2021 and onwards, they are certainly a band to watch.
Set List: Dance with the enemy, Up in the air, Pockets full of sand, Fuelled by jealousy, Looks like trouble, Money hungry weasel, Death to thy neighbour, Wrath, Burn the box
Up next was a band who have played on stage with some of the greats in the world of Punk, I’ve met these guys in Superfreak Rehearsal Studios before and was due to play the same FNA Festival bill as them, but have never gotten around to seeing them, man do I regret that! I have nothing to say to the amount of people who gave me shit when I said how much I loved their performance and that I hadn’t seen them before, yes Hatter you’re one of those! Now I’m on the ‘Blindspot with one T’ bandwagon, if you’ve not seen them yet, why? Go and watch them, you won’t be disappointed!!! Blindspot are a hard-hitting punk band who can bloody play whilst not taking themselves too seriously, their on-stage chemistry is second to none and their shows are banter filled and energetic with songs that have more hooks than a tackle shop.
Opening with one of their earlier tracks ‘Breakfast Beers’ from the ‘Self-Titled’ EP, the crowd got into it quickly, everyone present (bar me, I’ll learn quickly) knew all the words and everyone was up the front jumping around. The set list flowed without issue, whilst some of the tracks hit on harder issues of break ups, most of this set list was light hearted with themes of going out drinking, playing in a band and generally having fun. Pulling tracks ‘Gaslit Manthem’ ‘All Fall Down’ and ‘The Right Swipe’ from their latest album ‘Final Allure’ and old faithful tracks ‘Grabusabeer’ and ‘You’re So Phoney’ from the ‘You’re So Phoney EP’, Blindspot shown why they are a headline grabbing band and have stood the test of time in the destructive world of music. A delight for the long-standing fans was an even newer track ‘Where’s Wally’, the lads are currently recording with Wail Records, so here’s to a new release very soon.
With an upbeat version of ‘Fight For Your Right’ by Beastie Boys the crowd resurged in energy levels, sitting perfectly for a set finish with a song I didn’t know that I needed to know….’Ska Wars’! Any band who sing about Chewbacca and Jabba The Hutt has my vote!
Your jokes are awful but in the middle of a show like that they actually work.
Set List: Breakfast Beers, Gaslit Manthem, Grabusabeer (Cows), The Right Swipe, All Fall Down, Where’s Wally, Youre So Phoney, Fight For Your Right (Beastie Boys Cover), Ska Wars
What can I say about Amberdown, that I haven’t already said? Their music is phenomenal, it’s hard hitting, it’s got balls but come on, what the fuck Jerry! You know this was going to be spoken about, at some point in time, between the last show and this, a wormhole opened up, swallowed the mighty kiwi lumberjack bass lord that we all know and swapped it with their beardless version with a bowl haircut!! Man, I love you, we all do and huge props to you for going the whole way with the ‘how I looked as a kid’ party, but please bring us back the bearded wonder that we know.
So, now that is cleared up, Dan, Dan The Bicep Man pumped up his fresh Reebok Pumps (nice) and AD smashed into an old faithful, ‘Say You Will’, thankfully ‘alternate world’ Jerry can play the bass just as well as our bearded wonder, his tight basslines timed perfectly with Marc Lennon’s drums, this is one of the tightest rhythm sections I’ve seen. Marc has a style that is so unique, he’s mesmerizing to watch live and he certainly shines during the new songs that AD have been polishing during recording with Jay Huxtable at Oracle Sound.
This was the most refined that I have heard the new album songs, their comfort with the newer tracks shown when they added in ‘Ever Need’, a song that had been only written that week. The song is another hard hitter that you would expect from a band that have supported some of Rocks Legends on the largest stages we have. Whilst the song was a little rawer than the others, it was still a memorable addition to their set, and I think this may have surpassed ‘Belmont Ave’ as my new favourite. Glatz’s guitar work and stage presence is always up with the best, he’s solid and brings an added confidence and grounding to a band that needs no write up nor review to introduce them, their music does that all on its own.
I look forward to the release of ‘Shattered And Bagged’, in their follow up to ‘Four Years’, with the music we have heard live up to now, it is looking to be one hell of an album. There is also a sneaky rumour that we may be expecting something very, very soon in the form of a single from the AD Camp. Keep your eyes and ears on their socials!
Set List:- Say You Will, Spare Me The Lies, Belmont Ave, Do It Again, Willow, Ever Need, Bullet, Lifeless, Hole In The Flaw
And now, the moment we have all been waiting for, the reason we all ventured out of our warm cosy houses in weather akin to my native Manchester, the EP that has been long in the making, the one and only Command A Panda EP launch. With the merch table swarming with fans from the opening of the doors, as everyone was eager for the coveted Limited-Edition EP shirt, the love for the Pandas was apparent, I love the idea of the EP Tee, so much we bought a couple. Gentle reminder to buy band merch, it puts bamboo in Panda’s bellies and new tracks on future albums.
Cranking in with one of the new tracks, ‘Medicine’ had Panda heads flying across the crowd, people jumping up and down and Adam Moore smiling and crashing away behind the kit, spoiler alert, he didn’t stop smiling throughout the set. I’m not sure how he manages to smile through some of those heavier hits but it goes to show you don’t need that angry drummer face to be a hard hitter.
‘Never Slept So Well’ kicked in with its funky guitar riff, showing this band aren’t here to fuck spiders. This is the only song on the EP that was cowritten with former drummer and founder Tim Hosken, whilst this is the case, Adam has truly made this song his own, with his flair and pizazz. Having the song so early in the set showcased the full sound they carry, listening to the EP you would think they are easily a three or four piece band, but Command A Panda do this live on stage on their own, no samples, just the two of them and it does not sound empty. There are many mutterings which are becoming tiring, stating the boys need a bassist, well I’m a bassist and I don’t think they do. Between the guitar work that Matt carries out and the extremely proficient work of Adam on drums, whom is one of most technical drummers here in Perth, there isn’t a loss of any component. I think people need to move away from what they see as a band being traditional in its members, this is 2020 and having seen many successful, two piece international bands across the last twenty years, it’s about time Command A Panda were given the same respect to their choice of band set up.
The set list was bolstered with older classics such as ‘One And Only Love’, ‘You Aint Coming Back’ and ‘Circles’, whilst this is great for nostalgia and gets the crows pumping, it’s a prompt to look at the progression of the songwriting within the team on the new EP.
‘Thanks For Coming (Can You Leave)’ is a fast paced rock ditty which is new to their sets, it’s fun, its catchy, its Command A Panda to the core. No current Panda set would be complete without their funked up reggae-punk version of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’, I remember being sat in 459 Bar the night they pulled this out of the bag, it’s a cracker and pays homage to music being about freedom and having fun whilst entertaining those who have come to see you.
The addition to this set that I can’t get out of my head was the blinder of a track in ‘Wind Howls Like Hell In July’. There is no where for Matt’s vocals to hide on this song, its brutally raw, emotional and almost vulnerable. It’s a direction of songwriting I haven’t seen with the Panda’s before, I hope this is the momentum of the ‘Hort-Moore’ writing collaboration for the next album. Whilst Matt always wears his heart on his sleeve during performances, his angst during their punkier songs has never been shy but there was a new level of grit and survival in his vocal approach for this song, it brought an intimacy within the tone and a gentle reminder that these boys aren’t just here to party, they have cut their own pathway within songwriting. A heavy riff based fusion of guitar and solid drums allow a dramatic effect for lyrics like ‘….I wear the blood upon my shirt, I know I’ve been somewhere but who did I hurt?’ and ‘….it’s me who chose to be the goddam cat and the mouse, it’s me that’s letting me down, it’s me who chose to be alone in this goddam house.’
As the applause went up for the vocals ringing through the PA a familiar guitar riff fired up, it’s one that every Panda fan knows, this may be a newbie to the digital world for the EP but live, ‘Bring It’ is an old favourite. There’s a reason the fans love it, it’s a hard, hook filled, riff driven rock number. Adams drumming and smiling shines through this song when played live, and his harmonies are second to none.
You can’t finish a Panda set without the beloved ‘No-Ones Fuckin Steering’, complete with crowd participation, this was indeed a very bouncy audience with many screams and shouts of #FYD and one gent even shouting through the quiet of a tuning moment that Matt was a sexy beast.
Their Self Titled EP was recorded, mixed and mastered at Oracle Studios by Jay Huxtable, the levels on the EP are seamless and allow for a listener to soak up every component of the piece. This is quite apparent in ‘Wind Howls Like Hell In July’, I highly recommend putting a set of head phones on and losing yourself in this track, as it takes you on an emotional journey.
Command A Panda are not just the two that you see on stage, there is a third Panda who tirelessly worked all evening, chatting to everyone, making sure everyone had everything they needed and they were having a good time. Panda 3 is the delightful Lucy Thomas, I just wanted to throw a hell yeah out to a pivotal part of the CAP crew who works behind the scenes to make a lot of this possible.
In closing, the lads from Command A Panda are not only two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, who are constantly trying to create a happier and supportive community within Perth, they are also solid musicians with a bright future ahead in music. They have shown in this last songwriting period that they can bring new levels of penmanship to their lyrical and musical content, which has a funky rock feel with a little vulnerability and pizazz. There only one other thing I want to say, please give us an encore next time! The crowd wanted it and I know you have the material, be indulgent with your set time, it is your headline show.
Thanks to Scott Crighton for the sound at Amplifier Bar as always, the bar staff for their service and again to Command A Panda, thanks for a great evening.
Set List: Medicine, Never Slept So Well, One And Only Love, You Aint Comin Back, Thanks For Coming, Shoes, No Scrubs, Wind Howls Like Hell, Circles, Bring It, No Ones Fuckin Steering
Photos by Karen Lowe