• Louis Griffin

Live Review: Sancho Panza @ The Bodega

Notts alternative outfit Sancho Panza sell out Bodega for a triumphant show which pays testament to not only their technical talent, but their vitality and charisma too.


Imagine, if you will, transporting a band from the 60s to present day. Pressing a beer into each of their hands, pushing them up the back steps to emerge, blinking, onto The Bodega’s stage. They face the sold-out audience, and then launch into a set that could have been lifted straight from the golden age of psychedelia, shimmering guitars, blissed-out synths and mod cuts. This is Sancho Panza, and they’ll be damned if you have anything less than a hell of a time. Bodega gives every song rapturous support, with the room completely packed out with adoring fans; their cult appeal is self-evident.

Image credit: Sancho Panza, Facebook.

Frontman Jack Burton treats the whole affair as one big in-joke, which does very well indeed to offset the slightly more earnest shoegaze that they peddle elsewhere. They have genuine hits in hand too, with The 2200 Year Event and Rearrange The Diamonds landing to an ecstatic response. Burton’s stage presence is somewhere between a Gallagher brother and Bob Mortimer, simultaneously self-aware and impassioned. This is the power of Sancho; they have the ability to dip into all the tropes and worn-out clichés of shoegaze and surf rock, but it’s always done knowingly, always with a tongue firmly in cheek. Their song titles reference French cinema, lyrics have a jaded cynicism to them, even Sancho Panza is a character from Don Quixote. Everything here is carefully considered, not a single detail gratuitous. From the period-appropriate bass (Hofner), the haircuts (mod) and the outfits (vintage), they’ve got the credentials.

'They face the sold-out audience, and then launch into a set that could have been lifted straight from the golden age of psychedelia, shimmering guitars, blissed-out synths and mod cuts'.

The music itself wanders from surf rock to garage and back again. Burton’s got an ear for a well-worn melody, but he’s helped by the plethora of grooves provided by the others. And my, how many there are. Bodega’s stage was practically groaning under the weight, with an almost comical number of people on stage – I think I counted 8 at the most, but even usually at this venue, 6 is an ask. Luckily, they carry it off with aplomb, helped along by Burton’s witty asides. When they welcome yet another person on stage – ostensibly to help out on bongos – it doesn’t even seem remotely odd. The twin forces of Cameron Harris and Callum Jones on guitar ensure that some rather adventurous sonics come off as perfectly natural. Everything is soaked through with chorus and reverb, psychedelia proving itself alive and well in the textures on display here. If anything, the set feels short, with Sancho off stage after perhaps only 40 minutes.

'This is the power of Sancho; they have the ability to dip into all the tropes and worn-out clichés of shoegaze and surf rock, but it’s always done knowingly, always with a tongue firmly in cheek'.

Sancho Panza are an intriguing proposition, sort of a thinking man’s alternative to so many of the indie revivalist bands around right now. They’re smart, funny and crucially, dripping with charisma. In Jack Burton they have a frontman with an uncanny knack for getting the entire room onside within seconds of being onstage. Really, it’s no wonder they sold The Bodega out, and the queue at the merch desk by the end showed just how many people wanted to be a part of this moment, wanted to have some kind of souvenir of this night. It really felt like a moment for the band, and I’ll be intrigued to see what nostalgia-dappled path they lead us down next.

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