The Pan @ CBGB’s
Chris Pan Launois has been a stalwart musician undauntedly performing the NYC scene for nearly a decade. Through the years, his band Pan has vacillated from folk rock to world beat to now edgy rock and roll and has always maintained the liberal, geopolitical vision of activist Launois. The last time I had seen the band, Launois and percussionist/keyboardist Kasahn had an overtly sexual shtick that culminated in a naked Kasahn spinning in a pirouette while having finger paint poured on her. Now I’m not one to disparage “performace art” during a musical act, especially when there is a beautiful naked women involved, but I always felt confused and distracted by this sexual element in Pan’s performances. I could never figure out whether it was a parody of the cotton candy sexualization of rock and roll as seen in pop stars like Brittany Spears or a return to the suppressed primal desires of man that can only be revealed in a repressive society through one’s sublimation in musical form. Irrelevant of intent, the entire sctick just seemed contrived and served only as a detraction from the music of the band.
For the mindless, run of the mill performers, this circus act will do. Such bands have little else to offer. Pan’s music is far too thoughtful and needs only to rely on its solid rhythm and superb song writing skills. So, I was happy to see the Pan drop this element from their show and, judging from the relaxed demeanor of Launois at the Pan’s recent CBGB’s performance, I think the band agrees.
Pan has always had a way of attracting some of the best rock performers in the city. New drummer, Joey Repice, supplied a back beat behind bassist, Martin Ewens, so solid that he seemed to have had been in the band for years. Raed Elkhazen delivered an impressive Robert Fripp guitar style that brought tension to the melody. Multitalented Kasahn easily moved between her playing of percussion, keys, and singing. The musical sound coalesced into a post-punk new-wave ala early INXS, but darker and smarter.
The present lineup is certainly the best yet delivered, but the true force behind The Pan has always been the thoughtful lyrics being sung through the brooding baritone vocals of Launois. He is the reincarnate of Jim Morrison with the enigmatic bearings of Leonard Cohen. Pan’s first number, ‘Little Bit of Love’, is a sardonic tale of several discontents. All of the song’s characters are dissatisfied with the inanity of the world. They wander haphazardly through the motions of life, searching for purpose, even feeling, often through their own vices, each desiring, ‘a little bit of love’. The song reveals much of Launois. Perhaps he himself, after years of music and activism pursuance, is feeling the tinges of hopelessness and apathy. The entire sentiment was reinforced in ‘Swinging’ which has Spider Man (Launois is a lifetime comic book collector) chasing after the villain but swinging through the air by a thin spider ‘thread’. One is lead to think that Launois feels the string is about to snap and he will endlessly plunge toward the unilluminated metropolis below. However, even in the darkest of times, Launois manages to keep his sense of humor. We were reassured of his safe landing when Pan performed ‘The Edge’, a story of a multidirectional journey through a boundless, chaotic universe. Launois has ‘a good laugh’ at the world’s insanity and accepts, even relishes, the paths that he has chosen…’If I took the wrong road then it wasn’t’t really all that bad’.
Pan provide a sharp driving show that is sure to please. The next time you see the band listed in the Village Voice, spare yourself the cost of a pack of smokes and go see this top shelf band. Keep an eye out for their fall release, ‘Everybody Knowz.’