Live Review: Pennywise – 27/10/17 – The Forum, Melbourne

Let’s talk Tony Hawk Pro Skater for a quick second here. Because of that wonderful video game series (up until American Wasteland that is) and it’s always diverse soundtracks, I discovered punk and metal music as a kid and I never once looked back. Discovering punk through these games lead me to bands like Goldfinger, Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, and while they were not actually on any of the games from what I personally remember, this also lead me to the music of Pennywise. By the time I started playing the guitar, that style of music was basically all I wanted to (or could) play at the time. I was watching Parkway Drive’s first DVD, and I heard a riff that I really liked, and immediately tried to find out who the band was. Of course, it was Pennywise, and the song was ‘Fight Til You Die’. So when I heard the band was touring Australia and also playing their classic 1997 album, ‘Full Circle’ front to back, I was very, very excited, and I could not think of a better tour to actually see them live for the first time either!

Now, it’s very easy to say local lovers of chaos Pagan were the odd band out on a punk rock bill such as this, but you wouldn’t know it from the way these guys and gal performed. While the room was noticeably empty and the some of the people watching looked on a little confused, Pagan looked absolutely at home on stage. Vocalist Nikki Brumen definitely isn’t lacking in the energy department, and the barrage of Italian-Australian jokes are something not lost on me having grown within that ethnic background. And closing out their noisy opening set with “let’s wrap this up like a motherfucking calzone” was a particularly good moment. The bands blend of black metal, punk rock and hardcore worked very well in a live setting and actually worked very well in a venue the siz of Forum, which is usually not the case.

Pagan, you’ve got a new fan, job well done!

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While this was definitely not a Mariachi El Bronx set, the band packed out the Forum with ease and the level of crowd participation was enormous, particularly during a huge mid-set pit with vocalist Matt Caughthran getting right into the chaotic thick of it. The frontman’s energy was high for the whole set and I think his vocal performances held up very well, and so did the respective performances of his bandmates. By a long way, I think The Bronx was the most consistent band of the night and their solid hour-long punk blazing set seemingly flew by with ease.

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Here we go: the main event.

Playing their stellar ‘Full Circle’ album in full was always going to be a recipe for a great time, and Pennywise certainly didn’t disappoint. Having crowd favourites like ‘Society’, ‘Date With Destiny‘, and ‘Fight Til You Die’ so early in the set provoked a huge pit replete with crowd surfers, and at no point did the energy drop below fever pitch from the band or the eager sold-out crowd. Vocalist Jim Lindberg was at his usual best which is always good to see from such a long-running well-established band.


However, while Fletcher Dragge’s guitar work sounded pretty tight, his parts were often too loud in the mix and drowned out the tight drumming of Byron McMackin a bit too much. Aside from a couple of little niggles, like the Cali legends starting to play the wrong song at one point, the set went really well. They even dropped in some covers of ‘Wild In The Streets’ by Circle Jerks and ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ by Black Flag, both of which went down a treat for both new and old punks alike.

Of course, like all Pennywise shows, the inevitable final song was the almighty anthem of ‘Bro Hymn’. Yes, it’s a given at this point (and was a given ten years ago) but it, of course, invoked the best and biggest singalong of the whole night and ended up with several fans onstage absolutely losing their fucking minds. So all up, and outside of a fight I saw unfold right in front of me over literally nothing, the overall vibe during Pennywise’s set was fantastic; a rocking throwback to one of the 90’s best punk records.


PC: Owen Jones (AKA Digital Beard). 

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