December 11th, 2017 | Live reviews

Photos by Marcos Manrique Words by Madison Desler

“We’re Tijuana Panthers and we’re from Long Beach,” bassist Daniel Michicoff yelled to a sold-out crowd at The Teragram Ballroom, before launching into “Whatever That Girl Wants” off their most recent release Ghost Food. Michicoff, guitarist Chad Wachtel, and drummer Phil Shaheen have proudly repped their home town since the band’s inception in 2006, writing city-specific songs like “Cherry Street” and keeping a down-to-earth, blue-collar philosophy at the center of their music and live shows. It’s a loyalty that clearly goes both ways, the Long Beach shout-out met with a wave of passionate cheers from a crowd that was more than willing to slog it up the 710 to see the local heroes.

“This next song is one you’ve never heard before,” Tijuana Panthers’ guitarist Chad Wachtel joked, before firing off the distinctive riff of one of their biggest songs, “Red Headed Girl.” A combination of garage rock, surf rock, and punk, with just a touch of mid-century kitsch, it’s got all the elements that make Tijuana Panthers direct descendants of the punked-out, soda jerk sound mastered by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Retro vibes, thrashy drums, and a rippin’ riff are all you need to get a crowd moving—something the Panthers did all night long.

They played plenty of favorites—there was the doo-wop, “yup, yup” of “Boardwalk,” the monster drums and smooth croon of“Prayer Knees”—but it was the undeniable “Creature” that set the crowd off, an unending stream of shaggy-haired stage divers taking flight, with one pausing to plant a kiss on Wachtel. The relentless pummel of “Torpedo” was a close second, churning the pit up as Michicoff whipped his bass around and lunged at the crowd. He cut a striking figure in his “2EZ” shirt and a nose cast on his face. “I have a doctor’s note and I’m not supposed to have balls flying at my face,” he joked, quoting Clueless and amusing his bandmates.

Palling around together since they met at church camp, the trio have a laid-back rapport, effortlessly trading vocals and slinging dad-jokes as they make unpretentious music that gets people moving. It’s an infectious combination, one that certainly earned them an encore. “Hey everybody, I love you,” Michicoff said before they played “Gated Patio,” “Father Figure” and a particularly savage rendition of “Don’t Shoot.” The crowd lingered hopefully afterward, obviously still wanting more.

The show was opened by Bane’s World and The Garden’s Wyatt Shears’ band Enjoy.