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Review: Panchiko @ Thekla

An effervescent time capsule of sound, Panchiko transported the crowd into a retrospective haze whilst challenging fans' impressions with their new sound

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

Panchiko’s story is a miraculous one: full of internet lore buried among the depths of music forums and countless video essays. When a copy of D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L, the band’s debut album, was found in a Nottingham Oxfam the search began online to find the original band members using only the CD’s corrupted audio files.

Even swarmed with disc rot, dreamy melodies clawed to be heard from underneath the fizzing distortion that haunted the CD. It wouldn’t be till 2020 however, 20 years after the original recording of D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L, that the band officially re-formed. Emerging slowly out of the mystery, they have now begun touring and releasing much more new material: finally distributing the remastered D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L in full to the delight of a now sizable cult of fans.

Since then, Panchiko have been releasing original material including this year’s Failed at Math(s), which has been lurking on internet forums much like it’s predecessor- although thankfully now the band has found the reach to tour the record live following its release. There’s an in-disposable youthfulness to the band who are skittishly scurrying around the ditsy stage above Thekla’s booze-soaked dance-floor as I arrive. Set to some emo classics on the loudspeaker, including Title Fight, the band frantically tinker with their keyboards and guitars to make the set in time. After apologies, the band take up their instruments to a triumphant fanfare and begin to play.

They rattle through their first few songs: a triumvirate of electric guitar fills the dance-hall, bringing a charged aggression to the older and ethereal pop-ballads that were recorded in 2000. It’s as if the band are defrosting old tracks and their co-habitual teenage angst, but with a professionalism that shines through and carries a newfound clarity and stern aggression. The songs from their first CD are being ripped from a moody teenage past, kicking and screaming, into a live setting. On Stabilisers For Big Boys especially, a spitting fuzz pedal is used alongside the two other guitars to exaggerate some of the harsher qualities of the band’s sound.

Weaving old and new songs into their set-list, the crowd sway around in time to the booming drum-kit which bounces from wall to wall inside Thekla's hull with a clang. The sound is dynamic and alive: not only is the music sounding crisp but the band have also begun to introduce themselves by the third song or so. Lead singer, Owain Davies, remarks “We haven’t played here before… sorry, my voice is on the brink. Stay hydrated- always carry a weak lemon drink.” I’m none the wiser- he sounds great.

Panchiko @ Thekla | Anna Dodd

Even though it’s one of the band’s last shows on the UK tour, they’re cheery as ever. The small venue and its lack of a stage barrier begins to lead to some funny moments too. Someone shouts “your guitar headstock says Budweiser on it!” This warrants a confusing response from guitarist Andy Wright who turns to his Rickenbacker perplexed. It’s rare that a band will entertain the antics of a crowd, but the band play along and joke their set has turned into a Q&A between quips, as they politely decline a shouted request to “play deathmetal!” Wright playfully responds: “we’ll play the "deatmetal" song when we feel like playing the "deathmetal" song!”

I get the feeling the group see a lot of themselves in the crowd, who are probably around the same age as them when they first recorded D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L. Wright clumsily smiles after his solo on one of the songs: congratulating himself for playing “one of the better” renditions of the tune. Meanwhile, a fan is trying to get another guitarist, Robert Harris, to take a selfie on a phone that’s been passed up. After a brief attempt to bypass the puzzling lock-screen, Harris shrugs after a moment of contemplation and returns the phone- perhaps they’re getting old.

Panchiko @ Thekla | Anna Dodd

If they are aging however, it's a fine wine. Twinkling lights are cast onto the crowd as the long awaited "deathmetal song" finally plays. With an extended intro, Davies reveals some of the CD’s secrets by playing its opening sample in full- an old clip from the Sega Genesis version of Burning Rangers that has become inseparable from the song's essence. Shimmering guitar and a sweet youthful voice rise from the stage and as the drums strike up. It’s semi-ironic to hear the crowd cheer as “don’t play the track” stutters out of the sampler- this is the band’s biggest song and like many has been claimed by Generation Z for TikTok and Instagram aesthetic clout.

But the band play the track in good sport: they clearly have a respect for the internet communities which facilitated their comeback. Owain thanks the crowd and apologies for his cold-addled voice, which in my opinion is yet to falter. “We don’t have a record label. It’s mad we’re here.” Surfacing from the lingering clamour of feedback from noise-boxes, Kicking Cars gently heralds the end of the set as the band lay down their instruments and head backstage. There’s no encore- they have left everything with the audience, passing on their own youthful hubris that has been as lively as it was in 2000.

Featured Image: Anna Dodd

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