Live @ Wild Paths: Panic Shack / Opus Kink / SNAYX

Panic Shack at Wild Paths (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
Panic Shack at Wild Paths (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

Voodoo Daddy’s, Norwich October 13, 2022

by Owen Willis

Tonight’s line-up seems to have been curated so as to showcase the diversity of the UK’s effervescent underground post-punk scene, with each of the three acts having a wildly different interpretation of what that genre involves.

Their sound (and logo) significantly indebted to Slaves, Seaford’s SNAYX open the evening with a thunderous low-end rumble.

Faced with the potential challenge of having no other melodic instruments present onstage, bassist Ollie Horner’s tone is absolutely crushing – massively accentuating the sludgy feel of the band’s heavier moments.

Ollie Horner: Absolutely crushing (Picture: Jason@screamphotographic)
Ollie Horner: Absolutely crushing (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

At its best, this combines with driving drums and Charlie Herridge’s barked quasi-protest vocals to create focused bursts of aggression that have no issue getting the whole room bouncing.

But the overreliance on a backing track that plays throughout the set is so undermining to the sound SNAYX are trying to create that it’s hard to ignore. Whilst it is not a cardinal sin to enhance the live experience with pre-recorded sounds, there are just too many instances of the melody originating from here and not one of the three musicians onstage.

Ultimately, the need to play in time with the laptop on the backline sacrifices any sense of anarchy, instead serving to sap potential energy out of a band who clearly can bring it.

Bursts of aggression: Charlie Herridge (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
Bursts of aggression: Charlie Herridge (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

In contrast to the adolescent angst underpinning the other acts, Opus Kink create an incredibly rich and varied soundscape.

Blending more traditional punk traits with almost big-band sensibilities, each one of the six musicians onstage are used incredibly effectively – perfectly balancing the chaotic cacophony they can so easily make with songwriting that feels near orchestral in scope.

Special mention has to be made of the incredible flow of the entire set, sounding more akin to an excellently soundtracked film than just a live show.

Opus Kink are one of the best on the circuit right now (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
Opus Kink are one of the best on the circuit right now (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

This is in no small part thanks to the horn section, which comprises Jed Morgans and Jack Banjo Courtney, who are equally as capable of capturing the majesty of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack à la Ennio Morricone as they are of interjecting some Madness-esque mischief where the song demands it.

As the band careen into the frenzied finale of closer St Paul Of The Tarantulas with a cryptic nod to 1940s American singer Evelyn Knight (told you it was varied), it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Opus Kink just may be one of the best outfits on the scene right now.

Jed Morgans and Jack Banjo Courtney add their magic (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
Jed Morgans and Jack Banjo Courtney add their magic (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

And finally, Panic Shack take to the stage with their no-frills garage punk.

Opening with slow-builder I Don’t Really Like It, eerie plodding basslines and harmonised vocals accelerate into a driving pace that sounds close to breaking point and is maintained throughout the set.

This roughness round the edges is by no means an insult; it serves to add to the band’s organic feel.

The no-frills Panic Shack (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
The no-frills Panic Shack (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

Roughness is further evidenced by the enjoyably unrehearsed onstage patter, resulting in an accidental courting of a chorus of boos after loudly announcing that Norwich would not be on their upcoming tour.

Unfortunately, after a strong opening gambit of songs, the set becomes fairly grating. The instrumentals for each song that make up the last two thirds of the set are so simplistic that they really start to blend into one.

Panic Shack bring the night to a close (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
Panic Shack bring the night to a close (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

This would be less of an issue if the lyrics being applied to this musical canvas weren’t also focused on the relatively uninspired topics of meal deals, milk in before tea and stolen lighters.

When writing angsty lyrics, special care always has to be taken to avoid sounding like you’re rehashing conversations heard in a sixth-form smoking area. At their best, Panic Shack really hit home with their pointed sloganeering but at worst they fall into this trap.

Angsty: Panic Shack (Picture: Jason MacDonald)
Angsty: Panic Shack (Picture: Jason MacDonald)

However, with only one EP out so far, there’s still plenty of time for them to hone their craft.

Overall, tonight stands as a testament to the plurality of the UK post-punk in 2022 – both to the difficulty in carving out a niche in such an oversaturated scene and to the absolute heights that it can produce.

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