Sunday, 6 August 2017

Gig Review: Pennywise at Shepherd's Bush Empire 4/8/17

Punk week continued and finished for Emma and I with a show at Shepherd's Bush Empire. This show featured Pennywise headlining an absolutely stacked bill with Face To Face, Good Riddance and Teenage Bottlerocket. If you're a fan of 90s punk rock then that line-up is an absolute dream! Normally you would have to pay a huge festival price to see that kind of line up. And tonight's price was only £25, admittedly more than we would usually pay for a gig but still - did I mention the line up?!

First up were Wyoming pop punks Teenage Bottlerocket. After a difficult time over the past couple of years following the tragic death of Bottlerocket drummer and guitarist Ray's twin brother Brandon, it was absolutely brilliant to see them back on stage. On a big stage that a band with such talent deserve to be playing on no less. Taking to the stage Ray, Kody, Miguel and new drummer Darren Chewka, from Canadian band Old Wives, unleashed a 30 minute pop punk assault. Beginning as always with Freak Out, Teenage Bottlerocket tore through a fourteen song set spanning tracks from their entire discography. Highlights for me were Radio, Stupid Games, Bigger Than Kiss, Skate Or Die and They Call Me Steve but let's be honest the whole set was really a highlight. I've seen Teenage Bottlerocket and their musical contemporaries many times over the years and I'm always so amazed at the speed they play with barely any rest, it's incredible.

Up next were Good Riddance, the four piece from Santa Cruz, California. Of the four bands on the bill they were probably the one I knew the least. Combining fast hardcore punk and adding a whole heap of melody, Good Riddance are one of the most influential bands in the scene and we discovered that they have a huge fan base in the UK. As soon as they began their set a decent size pit opened up, which I must admit took me slightly by surprise. It's rare for a pit to open up before 8pm. The band had a lot of energy on the stage with bass player Chuck Platt really standing out. Like I said, I'm not overly familiar with Good Riddance's music but it was great to hear a couple of tracks that I do know and enjoy - Libertine and One For The Braves went down an absolute treat. Good Riddance have been doing this for a long time now and it was really great to see how appreciative they were of the crowd's reaction to their set. Great live band and real humble guys.

Victorville, California's Face To Face were the next band to take to the stage and wasted no time in launching into the hits with You Done Nothing starting their set off with a bang. Unfortunately these legends only had a half an hour set, but they tried their best to pack as much into it as they could. When you've been a band for such a long time and have released so much music over the years you'll never be able to please everyone with your setlist so Face To Face stuck with a mainly old school set. As is the way, old stuff always goes down best - so this did please many people in Shepherd's Bush. Classics such as Blind, Disconnected and Walk The Walk were played as well as newer tracks such as Bent But Not Broken and Double Crossed, that also went down a treat. Face To Face are one of those bands I love but never listen to anywhere near enough. Live they were just fantastic, this show definitely eclipsed my previous time seeing them back in 2013. Trevor Keith is a great frontman and has a great vocal for live shows. He also told a nice story about being in Shepherd's Bush Empire in the past watching the late great Joe Strummer play and deciding that one day he also wanted to play here. Dreams do come true, even after being a band for 25 years.

Completing a trio of legendary Californian punk bands were the night's headliners, Pennywise. The band, from Hermosa Beach, have been going since 1988 and this quite incredibly was my first time seeing them play a headline show. From the opening chord of their opening song the crowd instantly went nuts. We thought we were in a decent spot, quite close to the front but far enough away from any of the pit craziness. NOPE! Instantly I found myself having to push back against a horde of folk to prevent me getting squashed against a barrier. This was great fun! Pennywise's music has this great ability to just let you lose control and lose all of your frustrations. Pennywise and particularly lead singer Jim Lindberg's songwriting has always focussed on having a positive mental attitude, finding a way to better yourself and making a change to the negative things that surround you. This way of thinking is mentioned many times during the set and the music really does just make me feel uplifted. It was a fantastic set but there was one thing that I'm still not sure if I liked or disliked. The band played four covers (Minor Threat by Minor Threat, Do What You Want by Bad Religion, Fight For Your Right To Party by The Beastie Boys, Stand By Me by Ben E. King), for a band with eleven full length albums this seemed like a lot of covers. On the other hand it was really fun to hear these songs and sing along. It does feel like it's a nice little treat for a live show that you don't get when you listen to Pennywise records. Perhaps I did like it. Of course Fuck Authority got one of the biggest reactions and shout-a-longs - that's one of those classic punk songs you know all the words to even if you don't necessarily like Pennywise. The penultimate song was Broken which the band dedicated to the Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park who recently passed away, with Jim saying that he was "a real sweet dude." And of course they finished up the night with Bro Hymn. A song dedicated to all of their fallen friends. It's no great surprise that the "whoa-oh" moments got the biggest bits of crowd participation of the whole night. As a little side note, Jim's neighbours from California were holidaying in London and were attending the show. During Bro Hymn the neighbours invaded the stage to sing along with the band. That was a nice moment.

What a great night it was. I'm not usually one who really enjoys going to bigger venues but I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable "bigger venue" shows I've been to in some time. All four bands were superb and the three supports could easily have been headline act in their own right. As much as I love new bands, it's great to sometimes take a trip down memory lane and remember the bands that got you where you are today.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark.