One of the best things about catching a show at the Smell has always been contemplating which of the bands you were seeing were going to make it. Back in 2010-2011, together PANGEA was one of the bands that gave off that vibe. They had a sound that seemed to be more accessible. A mix of thrash and structure, making them more memorable than most.
Fast forward to 2017, and they’re headlining the El Rey on a Friday night, the second show of a three month tour throughout the United States and Europe. This band is established.
All things considered, they stuck to their roots. This felt like a Smell show with a bigger budget. The crowd was all ages, a healthy blend of 21+ and kids with braces buying $1 soda refills at the bar.
As soon as the house lights went down and the curtains opened, the audience went from casual, to intense and fixated, rushing as close to the stage as possible. Solid blue stage lights engulfed PANGEA as they began with “Alive”
It’s a perfect opener, beginning with a drawn out, old school metal guitar riff, but almost immediately shifting wildly between tempos, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The fans were thrashing, throwing water bottles into the air, pumping fists and devil horns, all simultaneously. Frontman William Keegan took it all in stride, playing coyly to the masses at the edge of the stage, seemingly inviting everyone in the vicinity to reach out and touch him.
As soon as the song concluded, they transitioned immediately to “Looked In Too” a more straightforward dance track, which the crowd responded to accordingly. Relatively speaking to the raucous start, things finally started to slow down during “Kenmore Ave.,” the first track of the night from their newest album. The relative peace was broken as soon as Keegan hit a solo that segued into the final chorus, which everyone in the crowd belted out at the top of their lungs.
For the first time, Keegan acknowledges the crowd, thanking the hometown fans and teasing that they were about to play the last song of the night, eliciting sarcastic laughter and a collective groan before going full force into “Make Myself True” “Better Find Out” and “Where the Night Ends”
After a brief mood check, the crowd was treated to “Offer” and the stage diving and crowd surfing went to the next level. Neither the band nor security seemed to mind, acknowledging that it was very much part of the show. Everyone seemed to get into a comfortable groove after Keegan literally asked for permission to play a couple deeper cuts off the new album, “Money on It” and “Is it Real.”
This chill vibe was immediately shattered the second they transitioned into “Battle It” in which the crowd seemed to mirror the lighting, going from still and calm to strobing and convulsing.
This pattern continued throughout the night, shifting between heavy quick paced tracks the likes of “The Cold” to the more measured calm from the title track of the Bulls and Roosters album. It’s a mastered approach from a band that understands how to keep its fans enthralled, and prevent them from getting oversaturated on a single sound.
Things took a turn for the somber when the show suddenly stopped after a fan took a bad spill from a failed stage dive. The entire band gathered at the right of the stage and took a personal interest in making sure everything was okay The crowd stayed surprisingly chill through the ordeal, and when the situation was resolved, everyone burst into an encouraging applause. PANGEA went full force into the incredibly appropriate-to-the-situation “Too Drunk to Come.”
As the night came to a close, the audience was treated to “Los Angeles,” a track that together PANGEA plays exclusively in their hometown and fittingly, ended with Keegan yelling “Go Dodgers!” to laughter and applause.
“Sick Shit” could have easily been a perfectly good end to the night, with the immortal lyrics, “My dick is soft” prompting the most visceral reaction of the entire evening. But within 20 seconds of the band leaving, or, roughly six repetitions of everyone chanting “one more song,” PANGEA came back on stage to play an encore that included “Make Myself True,” the hook from the legendary Cranberries song “Zombie” and concluded with “River.”
At that point, each crowd surfer was a familiar face covered in sweat. Despite their visible exhaustion, they would go on forever if they could. I couldn’t think of a more fitting end to the set.