Fierce Panda Summer Showcase- Longfellow & Masakichi

Last night Fierce Panda hosted their Summer Showcase in The Oak Room at Covent Gardens 'The Hospital Club; comprising of two of their signings, 'LONGFELLOW' and new signing, ''MASAKICHI'.


Having heard their new single, 'Spring' on Soundcloud I was eager to see 'Masakichi' live, to see if they were able to recreate the dynamic range from their released tracks, and put simply- I was not disappointed. The five piece from London played a flawless set from start to finish, combining soft droning verses with shatteringly heavy choruses, laced with tonnes of groove and subtle uses of compound time signatures, the harmonies between Hannah Cartwright and Hattie Williams really polishing off what was a tight, and solid performance.


If you are like me, and you can't really listen to vast amounts of Post-Rock instrumental bands without yearning for vocal melodies and harmonies, I would recommend checking out Masakichi. Their instrumental arrangements have all the epicness and dynamism of atmospheric Post-Rock, while filling the void often left by other bands through their use of melodic vocal lines, and harmonies.


Their Album is out September 18th, and can be pre-ordered from Fierce Panda Here.




LONGFELLOW, an established Fierce Panda act took to the stage shortly after, and cracked straight into a set full of incredibly well written, upbeat pop songs from their latest release. Having been blown away by Masakichi's set, I had high expectations for Longfellow. Although I wasn't disappointed by their performance, I felt that there was a lack of emotion and passion during the first half of their set, their cover of 'Elastic Heart' by Sia not managing to capture the raw emotion of the original and falling into the back of the room, Owen Lloyd's vocals unfortunately getting lost in the arrangement.


New single 'Choose' introduced a welcomed melancholy and emotional track into their set which really stood out and addressed my prior issues, the downbeat song really conveying the pain of emotional stalemate and cyclical relationship routines in a raw pop song. Ending their encore with 'Medic', Longfellow managed to prove themselves as a versatile act, thoroughly dismissing my prior reservations, and providing me with songs stuck in my head while on the train home.


Longfellow's New EP is available to pre-order from Fierce Panda Here.





Noah Francis-Johnson Showcase. Shepherds Bush Hall February 2014

The cello is without doubt one of the finest instruments to use when looking for maximum impact in a small space and with a backdrop as ornate and beautiful as the Shepherds Bush Hall, it's easy to understand why both tonight's acts chose to include this often overlooked accompaniment to support their stripped out sets. All in all, both the venue and the instrument choice worked perfectly in setting the scene for Noah Francis-Johnson to introduce us to musical talents whilst effortlessly leading us far away from his less glamorous and ornate past in the Cardiff boxing ring.


Introduced briefly to Gallows Ghost with a four song warm up set, a confident delivery of lilting vocal tones, guitar and cello served a startlingly intimate performance; effortlessly holding the attention of the room even if some members where surprisingly caught otherwise unawares. The trio’s final song choice of a watered down Pharrell Williams Happy cover however, was presumably a dubious choice from their A&R team. This really should leave them asking bigger questions and control of their set list as they noticeably began to lose the attention they had already gained and it felt a touch awkward and contrived. Altogether though, this was a very warm and welcome surprise from a band with a subtle humor and strong harmonies of string and song. It definitely left me wanting more.


Without preamble, and supported not only by the ubiquitous cello and guitar but also keys, Noah introduced himself with a raw soulful voice and a brooding song. There is no denying he's a very talented singer with an enigmatic charisma and a deep passion for his music. His songwriting is certainly archetypal of the more mature singer songwriter but although heartfelt, it really does lack the uniqueness and originality that is needed to redefine the genre and there is little hooky enough to allow instant broad appeal.


All that aside, there is an engaging and consummate performer to be enjoyed here. His intimacy with his own songs and audience allow a delivery that you forget to look for in artists that don't write or understand their own music. Hopefully it's a point that's not completely lost on tonight's audience (typically from inside the industry and the associated media types) who's job it is now to transpose Noah's work to an altogether bigger stage. Having proven through tonight's set of heartbreak, sex, love and forgiveness (recurrent themes is his songs) that he clearly fits in the 'acoustic' bracket the bigger question should maybe be; is there still a mass audience that will take this heartfelt, passionate songsmith over something altogether less soulful but more instantly accessible?

All together, it's a collection of songs that would sit very well on a dinner party CD but not so much on your iPod as there isn't quite enough variation to make you come back. Saying that though, there is little here to stop Noah becoming this generation's Terrance Trent D'Arby (or maybe even Roachford at a push) providing he can similarly find that one big hit and get the right platform and support from tonight's industry savvy audience; providing of course that he’s allowed to develop more as an artist and can move away from indulgent cover songs as evidently it’s his songwriting that a knowledgeable public will eventually buy into.


Tobin James