The blackened confines of the Northcote Social Club belie the late Sunday afternoon sun outside. It is a rare matinee show that sees Undercolours play to an audience of about 20, with punters lined up in a row on the left and right hand sides of the venue, leaving a noticeable gap centre stage. Pity, because the support band is good and their tolerance for bad manners is high. Closer “Spirit the Ghost” is replete with languid sound scapes. Expect to hear more from Flynn Francis and his band mates.

The Panda Band were once touted as the next best thing on the strength of their 2005 single “Sleepy Little Death Toll Town”. Can they re-claim the title once more?  Here to promote their latest album Charisma Weapon this gig is a teaser of what’s to come, and also a warm up to gauge the discerning audience reaction to new material. The Panda Band need not be concerned. From the outset, The Panda Band set the bar high. The audience was transfixed from the first bars of opener “Waneh”. Tighter than Bon Scott’s tit warmers, the band is clearly playing in unison; Perth natives lead vocalist/ guitarist Damian Crosbie,  bassist David Namour, Keyboardist Chris Callan and drummer Scott Lee Howard treat the punters to up tempo “Ghosts Have The Best Time”.

Current single “The Fix” begins subtly with guitar, followed by a smattering of organ, soaring to a keyboard crescendo, then a lead break in the vein of The Pixies, all the while, punctuated with Damian Crosbie’s distinctive vocals. It is phenomenal. Arguably one of the best singles of 2011 thus far and a highlight in a set crammed with pop gems.

“We’ve been up since Friday” quips a bleary eyed Damian, explaining some of his guitar stumbles, but his tiny flaws just endear him to an already won over crowd. Then later commenting on “the creepy atmosphere” of the matinee show, which doesn’t seem to matter, because The Panda Band carry us away in the moment.

Newer tracks “Spill”, “51 Swimsuits” and “Furiious” are interspersed with older material; “Eyelashes” and crowd request “Sleepy Little Death Toll Town” with its circus sideshow stylings. “Jamasian” was inspired by living in LA and seeing a guy who could be viewed from the car park watching porn in his apartment sans underpants.

On the basis of this show, The Panda Band look set for stardom. Catch them again for their National tour after they release Charisma Weapon in late July and see what all the fuss is about. They are one of the best live acts of 2011.

–        Anna Megalogenis