As Club Sound gradually filled with a mix of veteran punk rockers and skater kids, a hooded zombie lumbered onto the green-lit stage dragging a picket sign behind him. I had seen this skit before—the zombie threw up the sign bearing the skull and bottlerockets logo while some vintage horror movie dialogue played over the PA monitors. He was soon replaced by the members of Teenage Bottlerocket, who proceeded into slamming on some major power chords signaling their arrival to the stage. Lead singers Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman took their respective spots at the mics, there was a brief moment of silence, and then… “You’re a total FREAK OUT! You freak out! Every time you freak out! You freak out!” They kept a hefty stage presence—playing classics like “Skate or Die,” “Don’t Want To Go,” “Stupid Games,” and “Mutilate Me” while honing their power stances and banging their heads until their brains would bleed out of their noses, stopping only in between to recall every SLC show they played in recent memory. They pushed the nostalgia button as they inserted snippets of Van Halen’s “Panama” and the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” in the middle of “On My Own.” They closed with what is widely considered the quintessential Bottlerocket hit, and my personal favorite—“Headbanger.” Seeing how there was no barricade, I took it upon myself to jump onto the stage and “assist” Carlisle in the vocals—there we were, side by side, both of us screaming “Headbanger! Yeah, you know that shit can’t be good for your brain!” Since there were not nearly enough people to catch me if I stage dived, I proceeded to hop off the stage at the song’s end and waited for Wilhelm Scream to set up.
The members of Wilhelm Scream set up their instruments without trouble with the exception of the main microphone—lead vocalist Nuno Pereira decided to go on with the technical difficultly and proceeded to start their set. The next thing from Pereira’s mouth was “Take this record. Start with self-mockery!” then with the audience, “A master work of toilet tissue, but the words are sexy!” then boom—right into “Mute Print.” For the first third of the show, it seemed that the audience wore itself out from the single circle pit from Bottlerocket’s set, because there were no more than five people in the mosh pit (including myself). However, it picked back up again when they played “I Wipe my Ass with Showbiz,” but the pit exploded during “Me vs. Morrissey in the Pretentious Contest”—it was a collage of shoving and skanking all in a counterclockwise motion. One thing about Wilhelm Scream was not just keeping an enormous stage presence but doing it while playing music with precise intricacy. Guitarists Trevor Reilly and Mike Supina flaunted beautiful, technical melodies (“Born a Wise Man”) and bassist Brian J. Robinson carried fast, sustainable rhythms through hammer-ons and pull-offs (“The Horse”).
The anticipation for Pennywise could not have been greater—people in the bar retired from their shot glasses and worked their way to the dance floor. The crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder with each other as classic songs by the Sex Pistols, Rancid, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones played over the PA. Then there was the sound of a guitar being played off stage followed by some cheering from the audience, which doubled when Jim Lindberg walked onto the stage, followed by Fletcher Dragge, Randy Bradbury, and Byron McMackin. The crowd space got more cramped as everyone tried to reach for Lindberg’s high fives to the crowd. Lindberg saluted the audience and followed with, “We’re Pennywise from Hermosa Beach, California,” McMackin counted them off and they jumped right into “Fight ‘til You Die.” The place went wild—up front was an onslaught of people shoving each other and jumping over one another along with an immense amount of crowd surfing and stage diving while a circle pit carried on in the back. The set stayed consistently insane throughout with old classics like “Rules,” “Society,” “My Own Country,” and “Violence”—where a special needs kid got up on stage and danced with Lindberg—truly, a heart-melting sight to see.
One of the pastimes Lindberg and Dragge do most recently onstage is admire people’s band t-shirts—this is how they decide what cover song they will play. It was spoiled however—the setlist was on Dragge’s amp and I could see the words “BR Cover” and I concluded that BR must’ve stood for Bad Religion. And there it was—the opening guitar riff for “Do What You Want.” Needless to say, I was still pleasantly surprised. Then it went completely bat-shit insane when the anthemic “Fuck Authority” started playing, followed after Dragge’s standard monologue about not letting people tell you what to do. I shoved my way to the front and for the second time that night I managed to get up on the stage and sing the choruses to yet another one of my favorite punk songs side by side with the singer. I felt Lindberg come up behind me and put his arm around me as we both belted out the lyrics “We’re sick of your treason! Sick of your lies! Fuck no, we won’t listen! We’re gonna open your eyes!” then I grabbed the PA speaker and flipped myself into the audience. I could not have felt a better catharsis.
Pennywise proceeded to blaze through more classics like “Broken,” and “Perfect People,” stopping in between for Lindberg to talk about his father, for Dragge to talk about drinking or to compliment SLC for being the best show on the tour so far (even though we were the very first city on this tour). However, the best show-stopper was when they asked if anyone watched the Grammys, which was followed by some expected jeers from the audience, and started to play a snippet of “Loser” by Beck, dedicating it to Kanye West, followed directly by “I’m Not a Loser” by the Descendents. It was amazing how consistently awesome this show had been and the finale was no exception. Everyone knows that Pennywise closes with “Bro Hymn”—dedicated to Jason Thirsk and any friends that weren’t with them too long. It was no surprise when Bradbury started strumming the recognizable bass followed by the crowd singing in unison. “Bro Hymn” always brought together everyone in the crowd closer together—people had their arms around each other all singing “Whoahhhhh ahahohhhhh! Whoahhhhh ohahohohhhhh!” it’s truly unforgettable experiencing that live. They wrapped up the song along with their set, and after the feedback and resonation settled, you could hear Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” playing over the speakers. Lindberg grabbed a mic and started to sing along with the audience, “Darlin,’ Darlin! Stand by me. Whoah ohoh stand by me.” Even after it was empty the venue still echoed of people chanting, “Pen-ny-wise! Pen-ny-wise! Pen-ny-wise!”
Check out Gilbert Cisneros’ gallery of this excellent event!