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, Nick Kuzmack and Eric U. Norris, offer their unique perspectives of the show. Check out Eric’s review here!
The Complex seems to have the edge when it comes to booking big-name punk acts. In the last year alone, Salt Lake has been graced by the likes of Adam Ant, Screeching Weasel—via the SLC Punk 2 film—and even Black Flag. Of course attending these gigs provides a hefty dent in the wallet, but it’s arguably worth the nostalgia, or in tonight’s case, a possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the legendary act, Stiff Little Fingers. Arriving to a line that stretches half a block from the venue, I gather that most people lined up are here for the other acts. How does one come to this conclusion? Well, looking at the sea of band shirts might give one with a note pad and pen somewhat of a clue. Practically identical band shirts that scream “one of us” are perhaps the ultimate way to pay homage to one’s favorite band. The majority in line appear to be here for Bad Religion and The Offspring. Only a minority seem to have come for Stiff Little Fingers. One could identify those folks by the clear punk attire or the groaning of missing the short set.
By the time I got into the venue, I was having trouble skipping into step like the hundreds of other spectators. Even getting a double dose of a coffee fix to satisfy a near close relationship of being a caffeine junkie did not jolt me into action. Rather, my eventual revitalization comes via the healthy combination of a beer and Stiff Little Fingers taking to the stage. Wasting little time and giving a simple introduction, they explode into “Suspect Device,” “Wasted Life” and a cover of the Specials number “Doesn’t Make It Alright.”
Clearly dominating the stage and providing a solid presence, these guys still know how to move about. Their performance meets with some obvious approval, and the punks are a perfect example of showing appreciation via the circle pit. However, a majority of those present seem to only stare on with curiosity. As they play their new number, “When We Were Young” off the new album No Going Back, there are signs of approval. Their new number is a sort of tempered rock n’ roll tune that plays off of clear punk roots and with a pop attitude. Following this, Stiff Little Fingers, with a great delivery, knock out “Nobody’s Hero,” “Tin Soldier” and finish up with “Alternative Ulster.”
Pennywise garners a bit more attention, opening up with their namesake song “Pennywise.” However, to me, carrying on the gig with heavy pop-punk/new school numbers like “Rules” and “Same Old Story” seems an odd way to go forward. It’s kind of a weird transition that doesn’t contribute to the same energy that Stiff Little Fingers produced. Rather, it starts something new that defines the rest of the night.
Going through their performance, Pennywise takes a good chunk of their time to banter with the crowd, asking the mass of people what they think of bands like Dead Kennedys, Misfits and even Metallica, seemingly in an attempt to provoke and energize the audience. Despite this cheap name dropping, the crowd eats it up, cheering to each band name, especially Metallica. Finally, getting back into it, they blast out a Ramones cover, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” much to the enjoyment of the crowd.
Bringing Noodles from The Offspring on stage, they go through the rest of their net. Knocking out “Fuck Authority and “Society,” Pennywise then does another gimmick of bantering, this time seeing which side of the crowd is louder. After what seems like a long while of this, they finally close out there set with the pop-street punk sounding tune “Broken.” Complete with “Whoa oh ohs.”
Taking time in-between sets to hopefully get a drink and away from the sweat-smelling masses, I queue up to get into the Vibe Bar. Unfortunately, by the time I actually get into the bar, Bad Religion is on stage and ready to go. Fighting my way through the throbbing mass of people, I manage to get back into the main room to catch “Stranger Than Fiction.” Having seen these guys the previous year, I know what to expect and am not disappointed. They put on a solid show, with Greg Graffin providing the charismatic focal point for the band’s energy. Giving some engagement with the audience, specifically offering a satirical apology before roaring out “Fuck You,” these guys keep it simple and to the point. They even play to their older crowd, mentioning Salt Lake’s legendary Speedway Cafe, before launching into “You Are The Government.”
It is clear that this band is one of the two that folks are here for. Not just because everyone seems to know “21st Century Digital Boy” by heart, but rather because of how awake everyone appears to suddenly be. Case and point Dude 1 and Dude 2 to my immediate left who begin thrashing about and playing air guitar. Mind you, this isn’t mild thrashing about, this is “my nose was about to have a nice dent in it, if I didn’t relocate” thrashing about. The, shall we say, very enthusiastic appreciation is reflected among the gathered spectators, who at this point I would guess at nearly a thousand or more.
The time in between the end of Bad Religion’s set and The Offspring’s seems to drag on. To remedy this, audience members waiting with anticipation begin chanting for the band to come out. When The Offspring finally come out, it is made clear why it took a while. In true rock star fashion, The Offspring’s setup includes duel-layered stages backed by bright, blindingly flashing lights. Dexter Holland, Greg K. and Noodles are front and center, while Pete Parada and Todd Morse (H20) are on the raised platform behind the other three. Exploding into their set with skater pop-punk ferocity, they start playing numbers off of the Smash album, which is the theme behind the tour. The entire front portion of the room seems to move and throb about.
To much of the enjoyment of the gathered audience, The Offspring plays favorites like “Keep them Separated,” “Something To Believe In” and “Self-Esteem.” The latter of which inspires mass outbreaks of pogoing. Their set comes complete with an intermission. Returning from their little break, they knock out “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and “Head Around You.” Completing this spectacle of a performance by making use of the lightning for full theatric use, The Offspring concludes their set. Though there are calls for an encore, I think after an hour and a half set, calling it a night is not a bad idea.
That being said, I’m surprised Stiff Little Fingers didn’t have a longer set and I never thought I’d ever see The Offspring. Speaking of nostalgia, when I get home I’ll have to dig out my copy of Crazy Taxi and give that a go.