The atmosphere was festive when veteran California rockers Pennywise hit the MTelus stage. “Bro Hymn Tribute” is undoubtedly the band’s most-loved anthem, but the knowledgeable crowd sang along and pumped their fists in the air for all of Pennywise’s classic skate punk tracks. It helped that the sound quality in the venue was first-rate all night.
Opening with the incendiary “Wouldn’t it be Nice,” Pennywise played with the raw energy and speed they’ve delivered since the late-80s. It’s crazy; most of the band are in their 50s, but you wouldn’t guess it from watching them perform live. Byron McMackin played tight and fast on drums, while guitarist Fletcher Dragge looked like a menacing giant on stage, but in a good way. Singer Jim Lindberg had the crowd chanting “Pennywise, Pennywise” and added “it’s great to be the king.” Normally, I would find such talk arrogant, but in the skate punk world few bands shred as hard. Even this jaded music writer sang along with the melodic “Can’t Believe It.”
While the tracks rolled by at a blistering pace, Lindberg had the crowd rapport of someone who’s been at it for years. At one point, he searched the crowd for recognizable punk rock band t-shirts. “I got a NOFX here! Rancid, Ramones!” he said, before dropping a few seconds of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The band played a medley of short covers, ranging from Misfits and Dead Kennedys, to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It was a nice gesture to all the legends who laid the foundation.
After paying tribute to Black Flag and Descendents, the band played Circle Jerks’ “Wild in the Streets.” Lindberg then asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a Bad Religion or Beastie Boys cover. Obviously, the B-Boys will win that contest any day, and “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” sent the crowd into mayhem. With such a good knowledge of the genre’s history, Pennywise must be the ultimate back-up band for punk rock karaoke.
“Bro Hymn Tribute,” as usual, came at the end, but it was worth the wait for one of the best punk rock songs ever written. With a no frills stage show, simple lights, and a powerful, clean sound, Pennywise proved that real punk rock doesn’t need any gimmicks or nonsense. The music speaks for itself. This event was co-presented by ‘77, Greenland, and Evenko. I couldn’t be more stoked for ’77 on July 27th!
West Coast power trio Modern Terror opened the night with Fat Wreck Chords tracks comparable to Propagandhi. The anti-authority message had Canadian content on “Prime Minister, Please Go Fuck Yourself” while the anarchy continued on “Let America Burn.” The lyrics were clear and contained a lot of f-bombs. I doubt I would play Modern Terror for my parents, but honestly, what good punk band would the folks like? For “Suicide Prevention Nets,” singer Jeff Doran requested a “circle-pit” from the crowd. He hoped it would be bigger than the pit in Quebec City the night before, but I think Q.C. won.
Fat Wreck Chords band Strung Out followed with a set that, unusual for a punk night, included an acoustic segment. The melodic band, around since the late 80s, had a polished and progressive sound. Unlike the no nonsense punk rock of Modern Terror, Strung Out was a five-piece with big guitar solos that at times sounded almost like Iron Maiden. About halfway through the set, the band pulled out acoustic guitars and stools and sat down for an acoustic interlude. It was an unusual move that sounded slightly commercial in this context. The crowd seemed to appreciate it, though, and I saw several fists and “rock on” gestures.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson