Continuing my accidental streak of missing the opening support act, I didn’t catch Paryce’s set. Instead, Beth ‘N’ Ben (above) started the night for me with their brand of bluesy folk. It spread throughout the sparse onlooking crowd, and although there was a small turnout, it was offset by the band’s encouragement to get lost in the music – an offer which was all the encouragement most people needed to dance and cheer. It’s surprising how often a band’s attitude can affect the atmosphere of a gig, and the playful banter between a few members really proved to lighten the mood. Importantly, the band looked like they were having fun too.
Beth ‘N’ Ben don’t burden their music with cliched literary techniques, instead focusing more on simply telling a story. Unfortunately that’s where they seem to fall short. I feel like that writing style needs to be coupled with those special hooks that throw the song up in the air. That special moment that gets the whole crowd participating, almost anthemic in nature, and it just didn’t feel like there were many opportunities for that on Wednesday. They seem to be gradually nailing that musical niche they occupy, but it would bring so much more to their live show to see their song-writing grow with that in focus. That said, they were entertaining to watch, and let’s be honest, there aren’t many bands that sell g-strings and bibs as merchandise.
The Panda Band took the stage shortly afterwards, and I want to address an issue before I talk about their set.
I felt that in terms of acoustics or sound quality, their set suffered. Even standing as far back as possible due to the overbearing volume, it still felt uncomfortable, and although I should have remembered my earplugs, no band needs to be that loud. Whether it was the acoustics of ANU bar, or the sound set up, the band sounded clearer and more enjoyable when I blocked my ears. This was no fault of the band, but it did influence my enjoyment a bit.
Apart from that, I found their playing quite enjoyable, but their performance itself a little lacklustre. They looked a little bored, almost as if they didn’t want to be there, and although I can understand the disappointment with what was probably a smaller than expected turnout, it didn’t translate into a positive vibe. Rarely did lead singer and guitarist Damian Crosbie really let go and move around, and although their playing sounded quite solid, there does have to be an element of energy in a live performance.
That said, I felt their music did translate well live, and without the unfortunate sound issues it would’ve sounded even better. The combination of grandiose drumming patterns, which seemed to stay rhythmically interesting, and the band’s bright melodies, really had this sense of style about them. There’s no doubt about The Panda Band – they certainly know how to form their hooks into well-developed and mature songs, and if they can inject some more energy and atmosphere into their set, they’ll definitely be heading onto much bigger things.
The Panda Band are still touring around, and you can check out all of the dates over here.