On Aug. 26, the Punk Rock Summer Nationals tour stopped in Salt Lake, featuring The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise and Stiff Little Fingers. Two SLUG writers, Eric U. Norris and Nick Kuzmack, offer their unique perspectives of the show. Check out Nick’s review here!
I entered the full house of the Rockwell stage at The Complex to see a Pennywise banner hanging on the far side of the venue, above the stage. Stiff Little Fingers opened the show—I thought to myself, “Fuck! I missed ‘Suspect Device!’”—Spilt milk. I was happy that I arrived just as Pennywise started to ask the crowd what cover song they should play. “What bands do you like?” yelled Jim Lindberg (vocals), “I see a lot of different band shirts out there, what about The Descendents, or Black Flag, or The Circle Jerks?” Each suggestion got a thunderous roar from the audience. Fletcher Dragge (guitar) jumped in and said, “How about Metallica, or Iron Maiden?” After cheers from the audience and numerous suggested band names, it came down to the Ramones or Nirvana. Predictably, The Ramones got a louder cheer than Nirvana, so Byron McMackin counted the classic 1-2-3-4 on his cymbal and BOOM! Pennywise thundered into “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
I looked across the vast crowd to see the first of many circle pits I’d be witnessing that night. My friends and I decided to move a bit closer. We got there just as soon as Dragge went on a rant about the illusion that politicians are our bosses, when, really, we are the reason they have that job in the first place. We are their bosses—“We are the people! We have the power! This is still a democracy and don’t you fucking forget it! This song is called ‘Fuck Authority!’” I felt the pit around me expand. I began to scream along, “Fuck authority! Silent Majority! Raised by the system, now it’s time to rise against them!” I took this moment to appreciate the fact that this was my first time seeing Pennywise and how I always wanted to be in the pit, screaming those lyrics, with my middle finger raised high in the air—it was like a dream come true. My excitement increased when “Bro Hymn” came on. I could feel the love in the air—with his guitar, Noodles joined Fletcher at the mic, guys were grabbing their friends in the pit while chanting, “Whoooohhh-oh-oh-oh! Whaaaaahhh-oh-ah-oh-oh!”
Needless to say, Pennywise put on one hell of a show, but my anticipation was growing with every passing minute—my favorite band was about to take the stage. Pennywise’s banner was removed, revealing one of the greatest punk rock logos of all time—the crossbuster. Bad Religion (minus Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson) took the stage. I was already excited to see The Offspring and Pennywise, but when my favorite punk band, who never fail to put on a great show, was added to the lineup, I knew I would lose my mind. How correct I was—the opened the set with “Sorrow.” The crowd was still to start with, but it got rowdier when they played “Dharma and the Bomb” from True North. The pit erupted when they continued with “Supersonic.”
They continued with “Los Angeles is Burning,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “21st Century Digital Boy,” “Wrong Way Kids,” and “Do What You Want”—for having such a short set, they managed to fit quite a few hits in and interact with the audience. They reminisced about the first time they played in SLC—it was at the Speedway back in 1988 when they were touring on Suffer and their first single sold a whopping 125 copies. The band and audience had a good laugh at their then-mediocrity and played said single which was “(You Are) the Government.” Bad Religion finished off their set with the classic “American Jesus,” with the entire crowd chanting “One nation under God” like a bunch of right wing, puritan Christian drones—after all, that is what Bad Religion love to poke fun at—have you seen their logo!?! Anyway, I met the end of their set with great disdain. Their set wasn’t bad, but I was left screaming “They didn’t play “Modern Man,” “Suffer,” etc!” To say the least, I was dissatisfied that their set was so short, even if they were one of the opening bands.
The Offspring is more popular than Bad Religion by means of radio play, but one could argue that without Bad Religion or the brilliant Brett Gurewitz at the helm of Epitaph Records, there would be no Offspring, Pennywise, Rancid or NOFX. Epitaph let bands freely express their angst through questionable themes and vulgar lyrics. The fact that Bad Religion continually show their support by supporting The Offspring on tour is akin to a father showing how proud he is of his son.
Speaking of the Offspring, the crossbuster banner had been replaced by the Smash album cover—signaling that this punk rock magnum opus was going to be played in its entirety in just a few minutes. Soon, the room went dark and echoed with a familiar voice: “Ahhh, it’s time to relax, you know what that means … I’ll see ya in the pit, you stupid, dumbshit, Goddamn motherfuckers!” Pete Parada started in on on his snare drum, the pit opened up and the rest of the band ran onstage and played “Nitro (Youth Energy).” As was predicted, we did, indeed, fuck shit up.
I was stoked to hear popular tracks such as “Bad Habit,” “Come Out & Play,” and “Gotta Get Away,” but I was mainly looking forward to concert rarities like “Genocide,” “Smash,” and “What Happened To You?” Holland was impressed that everyone still remembered the lyrics especially to songs that, he claimed, had not been played live since the album’s release. Noodles confessed that he forgot how to play “Not the One” and stated that that was why they had their backup guitarist with them on this tour, who just so happened to be Todd Morse of H2O.
The Smash set drew to a close. The Offspring switched up the tracks and played “Self Esteem” as the closer—which instigated a barrage of pogo dancing and slam dancing. They left the stage for a brief intermission—and I mean brief. It must not have been more than two minutes before Parada started kicking his bass drum followed shortly by Noodles’ guitar—“1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, dooooowwww, daaaaaaooooowwww, dadum, dadodum,” and the boys were back on stage with “Americana.” They only had time to play a few more of their most popular songs—“Pretty Fly For a White Guy,” “Why Don’t You Get a Job?,” and “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid.” The Offspring played close to all of their best songs, and saved the track that that made them a household name for last—“The Kid’s Aren’t Alright.” Every time I hear that song it makes me look at my generation and realize that after 20 years things have gotten worse—there are more fractured lives and shattered dreams out there, now more than ever.
This wave of melancholy splashed over me when those thoughts came to my mind, but then I saw a little girl, no more than 8 years old, sitting atop her dad’s shoulders rocking out. The wave passed when I saw that—here was this guy who probably saw the Offspring when Smash was first released. 20 years later, he was rocking out to the same tunes with his daughter. As long as this music is still around, and as long as more kids are constantly being exposed to it, they keep the music’s legacy alive … The kids will be alright. I gave the kid a fist bump and flew back into the pit for the remainder of the show. That’s right, badass!