Catlow w/ Hot Panda @ Biltmore -- 06/13/15

It was pretty good fortune that Catlow and Hot Panda were playing a show together; both are bands I was only marginally familiar with, but had wanted to see live for a while. Hot Panda, I had last seen four or five years ago, and while I wasn't totally sold on them then, I had heard a lot of good things about their newer material, from trusted sources. And for Catlow, I had heard a few songs from the Vancouver band over the years that I liked (most recently in the CBC Searchlight competition), but just never took the chance to see them live. So with Hot Panda opening for Catlow's video release screening show, it was pretty fortuitous.

I missed just about all of the first band, Owl Skowl, getting there just in time for their last song, and all I could really tell from it that it was loud.

It wasn't long before "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (better known as the theme from 2001) filled the room as Hot Panda lead singer Chris Connelly walked around the dancefloor, getting people pumped and urging the people sitting on the side to come closer, before jumping on stage as the other two members came out, Catherine Hiltz on bass and Aaron Klassen on drums.

Right away they launched into some high energy alt-pop/dance-punk songs and didn't let up until the end of the set. They also gave me a slightly tongue-in-cheek vibe; not that they weren't being sincere, but between their energy and joking around a little between songs, I got the sense that they were having the most fun in the room, and that would be the case no matter the venue size.

Some highlights from the set included "Masculinity", which saw bassist Catherine pull out a trumpet and play both instruments at the same time (only for Connelly to joke that while that was impressive, he was also singing and playing guitar at the same time!) and a song from their last album, Go Outside, called "See You All Around" that started with a really neat back-and-forth riff-off between Chris' guitar and Catherine's bass to start off, and ended with a nice drum solo from Aaron.
They managed to up the energy one more time as they came to a close with a bit of a schizophrenic song, "Negative Thinking Patterns" -- that I swear snuck in a little Green Day into the bassline -- the song bursting into an all-out rocker to end with a bang.

It was a really fun set, and if my sources are correct, they have a new album done and ready to go (but no word on a release date yet). If this show was any indication of that album, I can't wait to hear it.

After a showing of their new video for "Stormsad" (see it below) Catlow hit the stage adorned in black & white. I always appreciate it when a band even attempts to look coordinated, so I liked that the three members in the middle of the stage were wearing all black, while the two on the outside were clad in all white.

Musically, the set was full of 90s-tinged alt-pop, driven by lead singer Natasha Thirsk's confident voice. Most of the songs were high energy rockers like "Number One", or one of their recent singles, "Lose Control", full of ridiculously catchy hooks. But there were also a couple slower numbers (relatively, anyway) like the spacey and rhythmic beat of the slow-burning"Stormsad", and a sultry & seductive song called "Iamloved", Thirk's voice enticing the crowd.
After about an hour they drew the night to an end with a frantic rocker called "Shinsy" from their second album (I think), playing right up to the curfew and not bothering with the encore-fake-out.

In the end, while I did enjoy the set there was something bugging me in the back of my mind the whole time. Something just felt off. I don't know if it was the mix, if the band just wasn't quite cohesive, or something else, but I wanted to like it more than I did. They were also following Hot Panda, which was not an enviable task.

But that aside, it was still a darn good show and I'm looking forward to seeing them both again soon enough.