If you were to go back in time 20 years, you could confuse a hell of a lot of people with your revelations of the year 2015. Be it with tales of handheld computers that double up as phones or by detailing the bizarre continued popularity of Gary Barlow, there is much to gawp at in the 21st century. But if, at the height of grunge, you told anyone that a bunch of Sunset Strip, glam metal musicians singing the most absurdly outrageous songs of innuendo-laden filth would be headlining the UK’s most prestigious arena? Well, they’d think you were talking out of your ass.
But today, glistening in the sun like a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket, is Metal Hammer’s very own Day-Glo purple, leopard-print backstage pass to what’s sure to be the party to end all parties. Because today, Steel Panther are headlining Wembley… and honestly, who saw that coming?
Being the punctual types we are here at Hammer HQ, we arrive unfashionably early to proceedings to see nothing more than a lot of the Panther road crew setting up what appears to be an elaborate stage show. Not wanting to get in the way (or be asked to carry anything heavy), we decide to have a nose around the dressing rooms. Where we find an open-door policy from all three of today’s bands. /o:p
Skindred, main support tonight and also making their Wembley debut, are more than happy to keep us company and give us the lowdown on the tour so far.
“It’s been great,” says bassist Dan Pugsley. “The Steel Panther guys are so nice. There’s no pressure on us, although I’d like to think that we’ve helped a bit with the ticket sales, and it would be easy for them to act like the big headliners. But they’re such great dudes and, the whole tour, everyone’s been hanging out.”/o:p
You might have heard these sort of soundbites before, but, right on cue to prove the point, Panther guitarist Satchel pops his head round the door. Hey Satchel! How you doing?
“Better than a couple of days ago!” he laughs. “I had this bug in Birmingham and I was puking onstage. These girls were getting up onstage with us and I knew I smelled like barf, but they kept wanting to kiss me and have a selfie with me. But that’s cool – if a girl still wants to tongue you when you stink of barf, you know she’ll take it up the ass, right?” We’ll take your word for it. /o:p
But if we can be serious for a minute (no, really), surely even Steel Panther themselves couldn’t have thought they’d one day be headlining venues like this back when they were a comedy covers band propping up the LA strip?
“Oh sure,” Satchel shrugs. “I look at it like this; when I was 13, Eddie Murphy was the biggest thing in the world. Every kid memorised his shit, because it was foul as fuck and he said all the stuff that you weren’t meant to say. So, as a songwriter, I just thought, ‘If I write some really catchy, bitching songs and tap into that 13-year-old mind-set by singing about the stuff that people love to talk about – drugs, pussy, fucking, that kind of shit – then there is really no limit to where we can go.’ It’s created a place where you can say anything and no one gets judged. And I think we’ll get bigger. I think we’re gonna be the biggest band in the world.”
Frankly, being in the environment we’re in, nothing seems too absurd an idea anymore. It’s tempting to wonder what it says about rock music in 2015 that a band so evocative of a seemingly ancient scene and time have reached this level of success.
“Well, I think people miss those days,” muses Satchel. “There’s a shit-ton of serious stuff out there. But people do just want to have fun; they know that if they come tonight, they can leave political correctness and Parliament or the US government at the door. That’s nothing to do with a ‘scene’ or a musical movement, that’s just life, just human nature.” /o:p
And obviously, Steel Panther are one of the bands, if not the band, that can guarantee you a good time. But, again, you just wonder if they feel like having a good time all the time. This is no part-time covers band anymore – they have to party like it’s the end of the world every day. Surely that’s exhausting?
“Honestly, no. We’ve been together for a real long time and it’s because we genuinely have a great chemistry,” Satchel says. “Every time we set foot onstage it’s a joy, and there’s nothing contrived about this band. We might be funny or whatever, but we aren’t a joke. The thing I’m most passionate about is songwriting… I mean I love pussy, but I’m a songwriter and that come first. So all this, it’s only ever going to be a pleasure. Now, let’s go see The Lounge Kittens!”
With that, we’re whisked over to the opening act’s dressing room for a chat with Jen, Timia and Zan, the three women whose swing covers of metal classics have made them an internet phenomenon. And, as it seems, the world’s happiest opening band.
“It’s been the best time of our lives times 10,” says Jen. “The guys make us feel so special, we’re like their pets. We’re just a little support band but when the show is done they hang out, feed us gin and make sure we’re OK and have got everything we need.”
“In a way it’s probably a bad thing,” Zan adds, “because we’ll never get treated this good on tour again.”
As much as it warms the cockles to hear the ladies singing the Panther’s praises, Hammer has to nip upstairs where the cock-rockers are conducting a pre-gig meet and greet. Fifty fans have bought a pass to have their photo taken with the band in the upstairs VIP bar. The atmosphere resembles some sort of excitable hen/stag do when the Steel Panther boys arrive, the wildly attired throng shouting, screaming, bowing down and singing along to The Final Countdown as the band pose and sign autographs. A group of ladies wearing pants over the top of their jeans with the legend ‘Welsh Panthers’ emblazoned upon them take the prize for the most excitable group of the lot, and one of their number, named Karen, walks straight up to drummer Stix and grabs his crotch before even saying hello. What the hell is going on here?!
“We saw them before, and we’ve come back,” offers Karen, matter-of-factly, as to the appeal of fangirling over a band that essentially parodies bands that people fangirl over. “Not only is the music great but they give us ladies a wetty too, if you know what I mean…” We think we do. Thanks Karen./o:p
Hammer asks Stix how he feels about being manhandled like that. “Dude! It’s great!” he grins as he draws a phallus on the autograph pad of another happy customer, before adding, “Look at that! The two guys on either end draw the biggest cocks!” as he compares his and Satchel’s willy-drawing skills. It’s hours before they set foot onstage, but already Panther seem to be enjoying themselves. Surprise, surprise.
By now the doors of the arena have opened and we take our seats to see The Lounge Kittens play to an impressively healthy crowd. And the girls make a lot of new friends, too, with their doo-wop vocal covers of a string of rock and metal hits from everyone from Slipknot to The Prodigy.
“The Lounge Kittens? More like The Cum Buckets!” offers Skindred frontman Benji Webbe shamelessly as tonight’s main support hit the stage. And if The Lounge Kittens were a pleasant surprise, then Skindred are in predictably imperious form, doing their best to upstage the headliners. We get nothing but ragga metal bangers, some of the best stage patter you’ll ever hear and, of course, the always-endearing Newport Helicopter during the closing Warning. Amazing scenes, as ever./o:p
If it was any other band headlining tonight, you’d worry for Steel Panther, but after a potty-mouthed intro from Download head honcho Andy Copping, the curtain drops to reveal… four dwarves dressed as the band playing toy instruments. It’s brilliantly OTT and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, and the thousands present are still chortling away as the second curtain drops and the real Steel Panther kick their miniature versions off the stage and launch into Pussywhipped.
If you’ve seen the band before, you’ll know what to expect, but tonight they take everything a notch higher. From the Lexxi Foxx ‘hair solo’ and Stix sitting down at a grand piano to accompany frontman Michael Starr on Kanye (the band’s reaction to Kanye West’s Grammy furore), to the endless number of absurdly ludicrous glam metal stompers, the show is as punchy and politically incorrect as a pissed-up Jeremy Clarkson.
Yes, it’s legitimately shocking at points (the images projected behind the band during Asian Hooker are too graphic to depict in a family-friendly magazine) and almost continually very, very funny (the heckling manner in which the band disperse some of the girls invited onstage during Death To All But Metal is worthy of a stand-up veteran), but when Andy Copping reappears onstage before the set-closer Party All Day (Fuck All Night) to award the band with silver discs, you realise that even without the spandex, gags and showmanship, Steel Panther may still have made it here.
You just don’t get to this venue without great songs, and they have just proved they’ve got a lot of great songs. Steel Panther have conquered Wembley, ladies and gentlemen. What were we supposed to be surprised about again?
STEEL PANTHER’S ALL YOU CAN EAT IS OUT NOW VIA OPEN E/KOBALT/o:p
Steel Panther’s Wembley triumph in numbers…
50 Places that were available for the Steel Panther meet and greet at Wembley, which included a photo, authograph, VIP tour laminate and tour programme.
7 Wembley was the 7th show of a 22-date European tour.
0 Minutes Skindred spent soundchecking. They still sounded absolutely massive, mind.
£79,000 The hire of the tour’s ‘Mini-Panthers’, according to Satchel’s onstage remark.
12,000 People in attendance.
8 Different rock club floor-fillers, including Last Resort, Chop Suey and Down With The Sickness, in The Lounge Kittens’ closing medley.
3 Members of one of the support bands Michael has slept with on this tour, according to Satchel. Although apparently he’s yet to pull on of The Lounge Kittens.
90 Number of minutes Steel Panther played for – their longest-ever headlining set.
37 Number of ladies onstage with the band during Death To All But Metal.
48 Number of breasts exposed during the show. Approximately.