By: Brian Strauss
ListenSD was at The Observatory North Park where Tijuana Panthers and local legends PRAYERS performed to enthusiastic fanfare.
Tijuana Panthers opened the night with their brand of lo-fi, garage-rock, oscillating between the steadied pulse of surf rock and the arterial throb of bass-driven punk rock. Between songs the band quietly sipped their beers while audience members yelled out suggestions.
Moments later the crowd was gyrating wildly in a circular pit, and a smile creased across guitarist Chad Wachtel’s face. Tijuana Panthers played a sparing set that was interactively bare and sonically unbalanced. The bass was blown out, the guitar was too low to really engage the audience and the snare drum was practically nonexistent until an audience member specifically requested that it be turned up. Despite this, the band felt spirited, and rather than trying to hide behind a glittering light show or an overly-glossed production they just played their songs and left it at that. They relied on the strength of their music to carry their performance and for the most part it worked, but the band’s stage presence did leave room to be desired. The audience, clad in black bandanas and goth-style attire, was predominately there for PRAYERS it seemed, and it was when PRAYERS lowered the curtain to begin their set that the crowd really began to engage.
There’s a shamanistic quality to PRAYERS that becomes evident in the way they interact with the crowd. The fervid, primitive, animalism of their songs created a distinct atmosphere within the observatory, a palpable embrace of this chaotic musical pair. Drenched in red lights, the band exuded their unique vision of cholo-goth with hypnotic beats and low synthesizer hums. Dave Parley held his open palm upward every time he wanted the crowd to roar and began a mutual catharsis that fed off the energy of their songs.
“I just want to address some rumors going around about me,” singer Leafar Seyer said, “rumors that I worship the devil. But I’m here to tell you, I don’t worship the devil. The devil worships me.”
It was a deeply inviting homecoming for the band, of which singer Leafar Seyer kept referring to as a gathering of his “family.” His vocal style, more of an enraged howl than actual singing, reflected on gang life, the omnipresence of violence, ego, and self-identity all coming into conflict with each other. The searing self-awareness of cultural paradigms and the dichotomy of gang-life over beats reminiscent of early Depeche Mode, backed by a wall of floodlights that inundated the crowd, helped to create a spectacle of performance. By the end of their set, Prayers begun pulling people up onto the stage with them where they danced to a band that, as hard edged as they were, were clearly happy to be there.
“I have no friends here tonight,” Leafar Seyer began to say, “only family.”