by Adam McGrath
“I broke my snare.” This matter-of-fact statement from Erik Jimenez, drummer for California-based alt-punks together PANGEA, set the tone for the band’s headlining set Wednesday night at Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia. It’s surprising no other instruments gave up the ghost as the group blistered through an 11-song, 45-minute performance featuring tracks from their new album Badillac (Harvest Records).
PANGEA’s sound goes beyond frenetic, pounding rock, however. Particularly on “Badillac” and “River,” a scratchy melody emerges on top of the chaotic rumbles of distortion. Vocalist William Keegan has the best broken-glass scream I’ve heard since Kurt Cobain, yet he manages to calm his high-pitched voice on these pop-adjacent tracks.
Another notable feature of together PANGEA’s songs is Keegan’s lyrical take on sex and relationships. Sometimes metaphorical (“My heart is lost…my dick is soft” in “Sick Shit”), sometimes literal (“Too Drunk to Cum”), his words creatively invert the usual braggadocio found in rock lyrics. The opening line of “Night of the Living Dummy”—“We don’t hold hands anymore, we just give head anymore”—smartly juxtaposes romantic and physical forms of love.
An equally impressive performance came from Dutch band Mozes and the Firstborn, whose debut self-titled album is out February 25th on Burger Records. The four-piece garage-pop outfit led by Melle Dielesen surprised me with a much heavier live sound than that found on the record. Songs like “Bloodsucker,” “Down with the Band,” and “Gimme Some” took on deeper, richer tones with the extra layers of distortion coming from Ernst-Jan van Doorn’s beautiful ebony-and-ivory guitar.
Dielesen manages to be a charismatic frontman without any overstated antics. Intensity shines from his eyes as they bore holes into the back of the room, and his slightly bowlegged stance at the mic conveys athletic readiness more than anything else. Occasionally, he would step right up to the front of the stage and sing his heart out in a plaintive yet commanding voice.
Plenty have compared Mozes and the Firstborn’s musical stylings to those of Ty Segall, and it’s an apt association, but when Dielesen was talk-singing his way through the single “I Got Skills,” I couldn’t help but recall Nada Surf’s mid-90s classic “Popular.” But hey, maybe that’s just me showing my age.
I was hoping to hear the band’s other single, “Skinny Girl,” but as bassist Corto Blommaert explained after the show, that’s one of those songs that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a loud live treatment.
Local band The Retinas opened the show, offering a brand of rock that utilizes classic chord progressions as well as alternative and punk influences. The controlled, deep voice of lanky singer Tom McHugh called to mind Billy Idol at his most punk, but Jake Joseph’s lead guitar did not mesh well with the rest of the band, resulting in painful discordance.
Overall, it was a hell of a fun show. The heavy, liquid sound of Mozes and the Firstborn led perfectly into the breakneck pace and sharp lyrics of together PANGEA. Catch these two bands on tour through March 5th.
Both lead vocalists, William Keegan of together PANGEA and Melle Dielesen of Mozes and the Firstborn, set up at stage left, allowing their bassists center stage.
All three bands asked the audience to move closer to the stage. Good for them; shame on us.
This show had the quickest set changes I’ve ever seen. I’m talking less than 10 minutes. Perhaps that had to do with the new 11:00 end time of Boot and Saddle shows due to neighbors complaining.