Tijuana Panthers Bring Their Surf Punk To The El Rey

Tijuana Panthers live

Los Angeles – On a warm, peaceful Wednesday evening at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile district, Tijuana Panthers were anything but quiet as they revved up the large, buzzing crowd with their surprisingly unique brand of saccharine-laced surf punk.  Opening for Mariachi El Bronx, the Long Beach-based band put on a performance that gave those that showed up early something to get excited about.

Best New Bands last caught up with Tijuana Panthers in 2012 when they were the opening act for a sold-out Delta Spirit show in San Francisco.  At the time of that concert, the band was busy touring in support of their debut full-length, Max Baker.  A lot has changed for the Tijuana Panthers since that night, as they have released two full-lengths in the interim, late-2012’s Semi-Sweet and Wayne Interest, which was released this summer on Innovative Leisure.

After a quick and energetic set by instrumental spaghetti-Western-inspired surf-rock band Pounded by the Surf, Tijuana Panthers wasted no time in getting the crowd pumped up.  The three-piece outfit launched into “Four Horsemen,” the barn-burner of a single off of their most recent album.  While the song was over in less than two minutes, it packed all of the punk energy, garage-rock distortion and catchy vocals that the Tijuana Panthers are known for.  Drummer Phil Shaheen handled the lead vocals on this opening song, giving the track a punk-rock punch with his snotty vocal delivery.

The band followed up the brief opening song with one of the best tracks of the year and another single off Wayne Interest, “Cherry Street.”  Once again Shaheen took the lead-singing duties, providing the verses with some aggression and punch while bassist Daniel Michicoff chimed in to deliver the pitch-perfect melodies of the song’s hook-laden chorus.

Michicoff and Shaheen were not the only two band members that handled vocal duties for Tijuana Panthers.  In between cutting through the mix with his treble-y, razor sharp guitar riffs, Chad Wachtel also got in on the lead vocal action on songs like the surf-pop anthem, “Red Headed Girl.”  Other standouts from Tijuana Panthers’ 45-minute set included the old-school punk-anthem to getting a buzz (haircut, that is), “Crew Cut,” and the doo-wop –infused track off Semi-Sweet, “Boardwalk.”

The band also performed a rock-solid cover of a song by friends and past tour mates, The Soft Pack.  Michicoff made a point of referring to the band as The Muslims – The Soft Pack’s original moniker.  Speaking of Michicoff, he was clearly the show-stealer for Tijuana Panthers, providing the audience with everything from a slinky bass solo on “NOBO” to some straight-up Elvis Presley moves as he jammed during the aforementioned “Crew Cut.”  Tijuana Panthers’ set read like a best-of album, as they spurned some of their less-memorable material and stuck to the highlights of all three of their full-length albums.

Tijuana Panthers are wrapping up their tour in support of Mariachi El Bronx and have a have a handful of remaining West Coast dates in California, Washington and Oregon.
Matt Matasci

Matt Matasci

Perhaps it was years of listening to the eclectic and eccentric programming of KPIG-FM with his dad while growing up on the Central Coast of California, but Matt Matasci has always rebuffed mainstream music while seeking unique and under-the-radar artists.Like so many other Californian teenagers in the 90s and 00s, he first started exploring the alternative music world through Fat Wreck Chords skate-punk.This simplistic preference eventually matured into a more diverse range of tastes - from the spastic SST punk of Minutemen to the somber folk-tales of Damien Jurado, and even pulverizing hardcore from bands like Converge.He graduated from California Lutheran University with a BA in journalism.Matt enjoys spending his free time getting angry at the Carolina Panthers, digging through the dollar bin at Amoeba, and taking his baby daughter to see the Allah-Lahs at the Santa Monica Pier.
Matt Matasci