LIVE REVIEW: Pagan @ The Old Blue Last, London (20/11/2018)

Credit: Andrew Basso

Date: November 20th 2018
Venue: The Old Blue Last, London
Support: Phoxjaw
Website: None available


When it’s cold and pissing it down with rain, there are few better reliefs from the weather at this moment in time than a rock show in a room above a pub. The Old Blue Last is probably the most notable room above a pub in London, with many bands having played here before hitting the big time.

Shows like these are vital to keep breathing the hottest new talent into the music scene, and they don’t come much hotter at the moment than Melbourne’s Pagan, who have made some ripples with their ferocious debut full-length, ‘Black Wash’, and deservedly so. Tonight is part of their debut UK headline tour.

Also falling into the latter camp of hot new talent are Bristol’s Phoxjaw [8]. For a new band they’re remarkably assured, and this maintains itself throughout the set. The band specialise in visceral post-hardcore with a tinge of grunge, along with some keyboard assisted atmosphere added in. There’s plenty of melody that shines through too, noticeably so with ‘Lottery’.

Their recently released EP ‘Goodbye Dinosaur…’ shows lots of promise on record, but in a live setting they exceed expectations. ‘Triceratops’ ends the set greatly with its rumbling riffage, not too dissimilar from Queens Of The Stone Age, and some impassioned shouts over the top. Phoxjaw are a band worth keeping your eye on, and their live show is not to be missed.

Most bands would find it hard to follow, but Pagan [8] aren’t entertaining that possibility for one second. A light in the shape of a candle adorned at the back of the stage has set the scene for tonight’s “ritual”, as the band call it. They enter the stage accompanied by bell sounds, so you can certainly expect the unexpected.

Opening as ‘Black Wash’ does with ‘Il Malocchio Si Apre’, the band waste no time. Vocalist Nikki Brumen is simply an unstoppable force of nature live, with her blood-curdling screams holding up all the way through the set, with some dancing added in for good measure, and she also finds an opportunity to join in the small mosh pit that has broken out in the crowd.

The material tonight is virtually entirely comprised of cuts from their aforementioned debut LP, and tracks like ‘Imitate Me’, ‘The Greatest Love Songs’, and ‘Fluorescent Snakes’ all sound like anthems in the making.

For a band that only have one guitarist, the overall sound is massive as well, with the punk sections and the blast-assisted freak-outs sounding just as brilliant as each other. Pagan keep the high energy levels all the way through, and they have already shown that they can translate the chaos and unpredictability of ‘Black Wash’ into a live setting with no problems.

Sure, you can have your stadium shows where you experience the big songs by the big stars with thousands of people, lighters aloft – the works. But both Pagan and Phoxjaw have shown that there’s way more excitement and fun coming from the underground Australian and UK rock scenes respectively. When something this exciting is happening before your very eyes, it’s hard to give a rational or critical angle, and just go with your gut feeling instead.

With various bands splitting up recently, it’s up to you, dear reader, to support bands like these and make sure they get the credit and acclaim that they deserve.