Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Gig Review: Rise Against at the Brixton Academy 10/11/14

I have spoken previously in this blog about not being a massive fan of going to gigs at larger venues. Very often the atmosphere isn’t as friendly and it’s harder to get a decent view of the bands you have paid a lot of money to see. Plus, you know, there’s all those people, so so sooooo many people. As I made my way to The Brixton Academy in South London I remembered another reason why I’m not too keen on going to gigs at larger venues – queuing up! Luckily I was with some friends who because they are on the mobile phone network o2 we managed to skip the majority of the queue and pretty much walk straight in. I thought a bit about the queue situation and how stupid it was tonight. Let me quickly tell you why. Tonights show featured Chicago punk rockers Rise Against being supported by the legendary Pennywise and young upstarts Swimmers. The show was sold out so that meant 5000 people, all of whom had spent at least £25 on tickets would be packing the academy this evening. Earlier in the evening the folks at the Brixton Academy sent out a tweet saying that the doors for the evening were at 7pm and that Swimmers would be on at 7.15pm. That’s only fifteen minutes to get a lot of people into the building safely. Obviously not everyone would arrive at that time but a hell of a lot of people did. Imagine spending £25 to go and watch anything, getting there in time for doors and missing out on seeing part of the show because the stage times weren’t very good. If you go to the cinema, the people who press play don’t do it before the doors to the screening room are open, that’s not how it works. The Brixton Academy kind of short changed some people there I think and it’s not really on. Poor form Brixton Academy, poor form indeed.

Now onto the actual gig portion of the evening. Sadly I missed the majority of Swimmers (formerly Emily’s Army) set. From the couple of songs I caught though I can see why they are becoming so popular. They play fast and fun sugary sweet pop punk very reminiscent of early Lookout Records era Green Day. Unsurprising really considering that drummer Joey Armstrong is the song on the legendary Billie Joe Armstrong. Swimmers definitely don’t ride on his coat tails though and are clearly a very good and hard working band. All the success they are guaranteed to get will definitely be well deserved.

Up next was if I’m honest the main reason I went to the gig. From Hermosa Beach, California the legendary Pennywise were about to take to the stage and boy was I excited. I never expected to get the chance to see Pennywise with this line up ever after lead singer Jim Lindberg decided to quit the band after 20 years back in 2009. To the punk rock worlds relief Lindberg eventually rejoined Pennywise in 2012 and were finally back in London. Sometimes the term legendary get’s thrown around too easily to describe something but the term without a doubt applies to Pennywise and their contribution to punk rock scenes all around the world. Way back in the early 1990’s Pennywise, along with bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, Descendents, Rancid, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name and many many more were laying down the foundations for a scene that would eventually spawn bands that are now household names such as Green Day, blink-182 and The Offspring, three of the biggest selling punk bands of all time. My gosh I was excited to see them live.

I found it really interesting looking around the crowd when Pennywise burst into their opening song. Half of the crowd has massive smiles on their face, were going crazy and singing along at the top of hteir voices, the other half were looking at each other and questioning what on earth was going on? Impressively Pennywise quickly won them over though as they went through a big portion of their back catalogue at a blistering pace. Songs such as Something To Change, Society, My Own Way were met with so much enthusiasm from Pennywise’s die hard fanbase. There was a great surprise cover of the classic Ramones song Blitzkrieg Bop that got almost everyone singing. Honestly if you’re at a Rise Against gig and you don’t know that song I have to question what on earth are you doing there? Pennywise finished with what’s probably their most well knwon song Fuck Authority and then of course Bro Hymn and song that I discovered is at its very best when enjoyed live. Pennywise were absolutely epic. I think the biggest compliment I can give them is this; they managed to make this huge room in Brixton feel like one of the tiny little punk rock clubs that I love. Seriously, absolutely amazing!

I had no idea how Rise Against would top tap, it’s their duty as the headline act to do so right? They were clearly going to pull out all the stops and had some lights set up on stage spelling out RISE. The punk rock snob in me really wasn’t a fan of this, a light show and a punk gig? That’s not right is it! I soon got over that issue though as Rise Against, led by Tim McIlrath really went for it on stage. To be honest I haven’t properly listened to Rise Against for year (like I said I was mainly here for Pennywise) but they are a band I have a massive amount of respect for. Throughout their career they have always stayed true to who they are and what their message is, never changing despite the success they’ve had. To me that is very punk rock. Live, Rise Against were like a hurricane had hit the stage, very rarely standing still, except to sing the band played the show like it was their last. Guitarist Zach Blair in particular caught the eye, throwing himself around the stage throughout the set with seemingly an endless amount of energy. Just about every song drew massive sing alongs from the Brixton crowd. Highlights of the set for me included Give It All, Help Is On The Way, Prayer For The Refugee and Like The Angel, which I really didn’t expect them to play so that was a nice surprise.

Rise Against and Pennywise showed why they are two of the highest thought of bands in punk rock. Both bands have a huge collection of brilliant songs and put on a great live performance, with or without lights. 

Check out Swimmers here:

Check out Pennywise here:

Check out Rise Against here:

Now listening to Comfortable. Tired. by Not Half bad

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