Magic Man, The Griswolds, and Panama Wedding
Neumos, Seattle, WA
Any tour bombastic enough to make a play for the #HOTLINESPRING tagline better be ready to prove its pop mettle, and the sold out Seattle stop for Magic Man, The Griswolds, and Panama Wedding passed with flying colors.
The night kicked off with New York’s Panama Wedding, a quartet of pop magic led by former finance-man turned singer/songwriter Peter Kirk. Relative newcomers to the synth-pop scene, having released their debut EP Parallel Play in 2014, the band’s well-crafted sound is hard to ignore. They opened with the telling “A Brand New Life” which gives away some of Kirk’s personal story, “Gonna leave the business/gonna sell my shares/get away from the daily rates, and hide somewhere,” but all in up-tempo, feel-good pure pop form.
The crowd is dancing and waving their arms from the get go, singing along from the start. A few songs in, the band brings a young guy on stage, and for a moment you might think he’s going to propose… then he asks his girlfriend to prom and it’s so very clear where the night’s fan base lies. “We’re gonna do a song that’s not ours. So if you know the words help us out alright,” says Kirk as the band breaks out a cover of The Killers’ “When You Were Young.”
After a short transition and to a completely dark room, suddenly Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” comes over the speakers and Aussie indie Rockers The Griswolds take the stage. The band – riding out the success of their 2014 party-starting debut Be Impressive – is a joy to watch. Cut from a rougher cloth than the clean-cut Panama Wedding, they are jumping off monitors and flipping mic stands, lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Whitehall’s glowing pink mop of hair holding court over center stage.
The band has managed to make every song an anthem of hedonistic youth and heartbreak, synth-pop, alt-rock, and island flair carving a uniquely catchy mashup. From the jumpstart of opener “Down and Out” to the tropical ground of title track “Be Impressive” and everyone singing along, the band is having a ball, and their crowd interaction and mutual appreciation is on point. It’s the drummer’s birthday, so the band takes a moment to have the whole room sing to him before breaking out in a sing-along of “Nothing to Lose.” They bring out Magic Man’s Sam Lee for a couple of final tracks and both the crowd and band go perfectly nuts.
This is all the perfect warm up for the unstoppable energy of Magic Man themselves. The two-piece electronic pop band – comprised of vocalist Alex Caplow and the aforementioned Sam Lee on guitar and keys – is tonight a five-piece of massive sound. They open with hit “Apollo,” a glitch, dance-ready track from their 2014 sophomore release Before the Waves, and immediately Caplow has the crowd in the palm of his 80’s-revering hands, despite the fact that most of this crowd wasn’t there the first time around.
There is pop magic in what MM is doing, managing to make the kind of movie-soundtrack-ready tracks that feel both personal and epic. Take “Catherine” or “Every Day,” and their ridiculously adorable odes to young love, for instance, and it’s no surprise, especially coming from such adorable young guys, why the crowd is enthralled. Plus, that pretty killer cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” just puts it all over the edge.
Get your dancing shoes on and catch up with the tour here.
Review by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Alex Crick