I staggered into Urban Spree a few minutes late and very disoriented. Some messy-haired creatures in misfit clothes were thrashing around clutching guitars, and there was a half-naked man-beast thwacking at the drum kit.
Forty minutes later I walked out telling everyone that this really fucking brilliant music, but that fact only sank in quite gradually.
Unique, surprising, bewildering and totally irresistible.
First, I need to settle into the corner with a bottle of something and set up my camera. The People of PÄN are singing about a pretty obscure actor called Emilio Estevez. I was taking a few test shots. The co-vocalists, Joachim and Lafayette, are hardly looking each other – but they’re completely on the same wavelength, continually changing key and rhythm telepathically.
Who wears the trousers?
I’m playing with the focus, business as usual. Through my lens I spot the frontmen’s legwear, both sporting extraordinary eighties numbers flared at the calf. That’s when I first realise something is up.
This was no ordinary warehouse rockathon. How do I describe it? Well, tuning into a People of PÄN song is like spotting a pair of brightly patterned flares in 2017. Unique, surprising, bewildering and totally irresistible.
My favourite example of this is Enter the Wardrobe. It begins scrappy and loud, like something you used to play in your garage to annoy your parents. It switches suddenly into its catchy motif, rigid rhythm, different scale to the intro chords, but somehow catchy; then switches back to the ridiculous verse.
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Seasoned rockers – just add Haribo…
What marks these musicians out among the rock scene, especially considering the average age, is how they combine creativity with musicality. Some young rockers rely on weirdness or shock factor to keep you hooked. PÄN have all of that, but they’re also backed up with really solid melodies, arrangements and evidently hours and hours in the practice room.
On stage, the People of PÄN behave like kids after too much Haribo, and they perform like seasoned rockers. Every playful and nonsensical line, like American Honey’s ‘Life is funny, Life’s a blast… American honey f*** my ass’, is delivered in a ridiculous accent with exaggerated consonants that match up perfectly with the spitting hi-hats.
A show, not a setlist
So each song is individually thought through and well-developed. (Special mention to I Hate Kurt Cobain, but don’t take the chorus too seriously). But the most remarkable yet subtle touch is how the songs are tied together. They don’t just rattle off songs one by one, waiting for applause in between: they make the most of the transitions to show off that wonderful musicianship of theirs.
PÄN is a show, not a setlist. Childish yet professional, raw yet clinical, this young band deserves better than to talk about potential. Because they’re already putting on shows as if they’ve achieved their potential. If you’re in a club and play as if you’ve filled an arena, it means you’re ready for much, much more to come.
Student small fry, country boy in the big city, with inky fingers and a travel guitar.