The Hermosa Beach, CA 2nd wave punk legends, Pennywise, sold out the Middle East Club downstairs on Tuesday night for their first show ever at the venue. A Wilhelm Scream, Teenage Bottlerocket and local up and comers Rebuilder (debut album show at O’Brien’s on April 3) filled in the powerhouse lineup. As the saying goes, “It was hot enough to boil an egg in an armpit.” Okay, that’s not a saying. But it fits.
Pennywise are pioneers of the second wave SoCal punk sound, rising in the early nineties alongside Bad Religion, Rancid, NOFX, and The Offspring. With a catalog older than half of the sweaty audience, they pulled from their deep vat of punk-uprising tracks to give all generations of fan something to believe in. The speedy track with positive mentality from 1996’s Full Circle,“Fight Til You Die,” opened their set. Scuffy power chords and pulsing snare pops blasted through the walls of the Middle East, starting up the endless Cali-style circle pit the moment they hit the stage.
Midway through you’d figure stamina would drop and the crowd might settle, but maybe you aren’t familiar with the immediacy and intensity of Pennywise. Lead man, Jim Lindberg shouted, “Fuck Authority” and the guitars synched up to begin the eponymous track from 2001’s Land of the Free? Jim leans into the microphone on full tilt, his posture iterating the forward propulsion of their tunes. He is met with a stormy meadow of raised middle fingers—but in a supportive way, because you know—punk.
Bass player, Fletcher Dragge poked fun at the Boston Bruins as Nuno Pereira of A Wilhelm Scream came on stage (wearing a Bruins cap) to take vocal duties as the band covered Minor Threat’s seminal hardcore classic, “Filler.” Booing filled the room, but no one wants to pick on Fletcher—he’s gotta be over 250 pounds and his head nearly scrapes the ceiling. Nothing could break the bond of the band and crowd regardless. Like any night in any city they’ll ever play, Pennywise finished on 1991’s “Bro Hymn,” and anthematic classic about the strength of friends through good and bad. It was pure punk love.