Sunshine has been tough to come by during this long winter. Luckily the surf-singed tunes of together PANGEA exude a certain warmth, or at least the memory of it. The California band, touring with Burger Records’ Mozes and the Firstborn, forged a raucous set at DC’s Black Cat on a chilly Tuesday night. The Los Angeles-based group exuded sunlight through reckless riffs, wry banter, and no-fuss rock, a refreshing turn from the impending storm brewing outside.
They kicked off with the punchy “Sick Shit” from their latest Harvest Records release, Badillac. Eventually, the band descended into dirtier territory with the rabble-rousing rhythms of “Cat Man”, although shedding none of the lightheartedness along the way. It’s no secret that hostility in the live sphere often accompanies punk music’s aggressive spirit. Yet here complete strangers hugged and swayed, arms locked and eyes riveted on the band. New friends pogoed and cheered together – clearly psyched, and didn’t collide each other with abandon.
Admittedly, I’m taken by the jittery static that a good mosh pit reverberates with. But last night I didn’t miss the eye gouging element, the trampling, the phantom punches, and those out for blood on the floor. The energy together PANGEA radiated during their performance was different, more a gathering of friends in a low-ceilinged basement than a show where the threat of violence is palpable. Much like the characteristic acceptance of a karaoke bar, together PANGEA transformed the Black Cat backstage into a non-judgmental space for jiving and jamming. I suppose that’s a strange facet of modern life, to be surprised by peace.
That’s not to say together PANGEA songs aren’t challenging. Lead vocalist William Keegan both reels and revels with his notable vocal range, somewhere between a growl and a whimper, and he was feeling these songs as much as he was projecting them. It further drove home the point that punk rock doesn’t have to be dangerous for us to feel something. You can convey urgency in ulterior ways, and together PANGEA’s method involves oozing pure, unadulterated fun while quipping about exhaustion, insanity and heaven.
Instrumentally, the songs are knotty, unearthing new dimensions dispelling the stereotype of the lazy LA garage-punk band. It’s dismissive to label these songs as purely “garage,” as the seeds of classic punk rock, late ’70s hardcore, reverb ’60s pop and the slow trickle of psychedelia all thread themselves intricately into these kaleidoscopic numbers. Perhaps it’s a nod to Los Angeles’s rich musical history, but together PANGEA unify these elements in a way that’s never overblown and always bombastic, especially in the searing “River”.
Despite their triumphs and enormous talent, this is a band that’s not self-serious in any way. After all, they chow down spaghetti in bathtubs and lock lips together in their “Badillac” video. But whether it’s crooning about lost hearts or parsing through what it’s like to lose your mind, together PANGEA songs are devoid of pretenses. Instead these songs practically become extensions of conversations you’d have with the band members, instead of deliberate, arty punk intended to scare. No gimmicks or parlor tricks here – just rock.
Photography by Alex Anderson.