The last time I saw Pennywise was at a Vans Warped Festival in 1999. Being a mad So-Cal punk fan back in the day (let’s be honest, I still am to this day) I was so excited to see Pennywise perform that for some seemingly ridiculous reason, I took off my Chuck Taylor Converse shoe and threw it on stage. I strongly believed that Jim Lindberg (lead singer) would cherish not only my shoe, but also my dedication to the band. More likely was that security just binned it the moment it landed up on stage. It also meant that I hobbled around the remainder of the festival, like a proud idiot, clad in one shoe.
This time around, I was determined to keep my shoes firmly on my feet despite the fact there were three stand out punk bands, Pennywise, Strung Out and No Fun At All, all under the same roof, at the same time. The Coolangatta Hotel seemed like the perfect venue to welcome such a calibre of high-energy bands and given the size of the crowd and the number of band t-shirts patrons were proudly flaunting, there seemed like no better way to spend a stormy Sunday night.
Mmm, when you think about Sweden, what springs to mind? Preserved fish? Weird guys in animal skins? Well fortunately for the Swedes, they have No Fun At All, the hardcore pop-punkers, who kicked off the evening with their intensive, yet melodic tunes and from the first chord, had the already sweaty crowd, moshing and singing along. Since the debut release of ‘Vision’ in 1993, followed by ‘Out of Bounds’ in 1995, lead-singer Ingemar Jansson and his tight-knit band, are still going strong and proved to be ‘Great Fun’ indeed, reeling out new songs and old hits such as ‘Master Celebrator’, ‘Beat ‘Em Down’ and ‘Better Day’.
Believe it or not, Strung Out have been kicking around for 30 years, and the intensity and fresh energy of the songs off their latest album, ‘Songs of Armour and Devotion’ really highlights their talent and dedication to the genre. Frontman, Jason Cruz, who has more tattoos than your mother would approve of, brings his unique vocal range and stage presence to the show and truly gives it all he’s got- as in, is on his knees at times, screaming into that microphone like it’s a case of do or die.
As the band belted out hits like ‘Solitaire’, ‘Firecracker’, ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ and string of tracks that showcased their diversity and absolute commitment to the music. Despite the fact they were down a guitarist (cheers Australian Immigration Department), the wildly moshing crowd lapped up every second of their show that ranged from punk, to metal to melodic. Let’s hope these guys tour again. Soon.
After two hours of moshing, I was wondering how the crowd (ah, and myself) would hold up for Pennywise. Everyone was drenched, both in beer and sweat, even the guy in the neck brace who had been bouncing around since kick off, was looking a tad weary. Yet, the minute Pennywise stepped out on stage, the energy throughout the venue was palpable.
Since their formation, Pennywise have built an international following through relentless touring and pounding anthems such as ‘Fuck Authority’, ‘Peaceful Day’ and ‘Bro Hymn’, an autobiographical song that pays tribute to the band’s founding bass player, Jason Thirsk, after his tragic death in 1996. As part of this tour, Pennywise were playing their album, ‘Straight Ahead’ in its entirety to celebrate its twentieth anniversary (Note: These anniversary gigs are starting to make me feel old. Very old). True to their promise, the band kicked off the set with the fast-paced hit ‘Greed’ followed by the anthem, ‘Alien’ right through to the final track, ‘Never Know’.
Pennywise have the short, sharp, message-driven punk tracks down to a fine art and their drummer, Byron McMackin holds it all together with drumsticks that move so fast it’s mesmerising to watch. Ending the show with absolute classics, such as ‘Society’ and ‘Same Old Story’ and the classic ‘Bro Hymn’ that has everyone singing along, no-one in the room wanted them to leave the stage.
It’s little wonder these three bands tour together all the time as it truly was a night of So-Cal punk legends uniting and reminding the crowd that a little bit of political and anti-establishment angst through music is what we need in today’s climate. As I reluctantly began to leave the Coolangatta Hotel (shoes intact) and nursing my neck (way too much head banging) I felt thoroughly energised and by the looks of everyone else, and the number of smashed cans, hats and yes, one or two random shoes (wow, it isn’t just me that throws a shoe or two!) strewn across the mosh pit, it was a gig whose music and messages will ring (literally) in our ears for many years to come.
Images (C) Peter Wheeler Photography