Simon Panrucker

Review written by Flossie Waite
Reviewed at Mini VAULT Festival

For ages 6+

Looking at Simon Panrucker‘s pink hair and sparkly shoes, I was wary. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things – I wish I possessed both – but eccentric costumes can be an attempt to compensate for a lacklustre performance. That, and the promise of a “high-octane” musical performance, led to worried visions of a nervously energetic Butlins Redcoat. My judgmental side needn’t have reared it’s ugly head: Panrucker may float like candy floss, but he stings like a bee (if you take ‘sting’ to mean ‘performs written and improvised songs exceedingly well’ and ‘bee’ to mean ‘brilliant singer-songwriter’.)

The first song kicked in with some pretty heavy bass and a sort of “Smack My Bitch Up” vibe (not lyrically, of course – it was an innocent ditty based around Panrucker’s name). Initially, I think we were all a bit shocked by this brash attempt at a Saturday morning rave from a man with more energy than the rest of the room put together, but everyone seemed to have settled into the Flight of the Conchords-meets-8 Mile style after a couple of songs.

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The set list is a mixture of pre-written tracks and improvised tunes, and it is the latter where Panrucker really shines. His ability to turn suggestions from the audience into elaborate raps with impressive beats is incredible. As an example from the performance I saw, he quickly created a song around the given theme – ‘Party in the toilet’ – with lyrics like: “The other day I was sitting in the toilet/ It was going well and I didn’t want to spoil it/…But I thought, it’s pretty farty in here/ I’d rather start a party in here.” And he’s not just a quick-witted wordsmith – the melodies are genuinely good too. Using a looping machine, layered accompaniments are created in front of our eyes, and often involving the children in the audience. They are also invited to perform solos on a cool musical machine with lots of buttons (#technicalterms).

Panrucker listens and responds to everything said by every child – from song suggestions to a description of their dog and anything in between. The audience really do set the agenda – so much so that it starts to feel like one big jam session – and children are on stage for most of the show. It veers between very silly – plenty of bum-wiggling dance moves, which are always a crowd-pleaser – and lyrically complex, so much so that it can be hard to keep up with all his killer lines. Panrucker is a one-man word-slinging, song-bringing, outfit-blinging band.

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