Pennywise bring Punk Rock to New Jersey 3-26-15 w/ Teenage Bottlerocket & A Wilhelm Scream

Southern California’s Pennywise has been a Punk Rock icon for over two decades. From their early beginning, with 1991 self-titled debut album, the band has triggered a reaction with thought provoking lyrics about life, politics, and everything in between. Pennywise are not a band without scars though, suffering the tragic loss of original bassist Jason Thirsk in 1996, but holding together through it all. Even withstanding the departure of Vocalist Jim Lindberg in 2009, Pennywise happily reunited with the vocalist in 2012, months after the release of All or Nothing.  Now as strong a unit as ever, Lindberg, along with Guitarist Fletcher Dragge, Bassist Randy Bradbury, and Drummer Byron McMackin, spent a good deal of 2014 touring in support of their eleventh studio album, Yesterdays. Spending time on the road with the likes of The Offspring and Bad Religion, 2015 brings the guys out for headlining gigs. First touring alongside Anti-Flag in January, March brought the Hermosa Beach bred Quartet out on tour with A Wilhelm Scream and Teenage Bottlerocket, stopping at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey on Thursday, March 26th. Bringing some genuine Californian Skate Punk to the East Coast, a large crowd came out to catch the show.

The opener on the bill was New Jersey local Zombie Mafia, who have been consistent in composing quality Horror Punk and Pop Punk since 2007. Vocalist Jared Sin’s Danzig-like cleans and Guitarist/Vocalist 45 Dave’s vocal bolstering were the smooth central locus to the band’s mid-tempo, high-energy take on Horror Punk. Count Josferatu’s involved basslines in songs like “Christine” and their closer “The Bloodening” add a colorful dimension to the Hardcore-styled riffage from 45 Dave and rhythm by Guitarist Zombie Alex. The group also did a faithful cover of the Misfits classic “Die, Die My Darling,” which Drummer A1 Bold held down just as Arthur Googy would have. The Zombie Mafia’s palpably visceral crowd presence sufficiently readied Starland for the next three acts.  Their latest album titled The Bloodening is out now.

Next on stage was  Laramie, Wyoming’s Skate Punk group Teenage Bottlerocket. Together for over a decade now, the band consists of Kody Templeman on vocals/guitar, Ray Carlisle on vocals/guitar, Miguel Chen on bass, and Brandon Carlisle on drums. Kicking off their set with one of their biggest songs, “Skate or Die,” they immediately had  the entire crowd moving. It seemed as if the entirety of Starland Ballroom sang “Shut up and get rad, ‘cause now it’s time to skate or die” right along with Ray. Later in the set, they performed their new single from their latest album Tales from Wyoming, “They Call Me Steve;” a Pop Punk tune that provoked the whole crowd to jump along. Tongue-in-cheek Punk jammers like “Bigger Than Kiss” and “Blood Bath at Burger King” were as light-hearted and catchy as they were thrashy. Templeman and Chen were kept busy in these and other up-tempo tracks like “Fatso Goes Nutzoid” and “Crashing.” The group’s influences showed midway through their set with a cover of LA Hardcore legend Bad Religion’s “Henchman,” a melody-heavy Punk track that is anything but low-key, in which Brandon showcased some of the most aggressive drumming of the night. Closing their set with “Headbanger,” the track produced a surplus of the activity for which it is named after. The band will wrap up their North American touring on April 10th with Pears before heading overseas with Masked Intruder.

The heaviest act to perform that night, A Wilhelm Scream, was next. This Massachusetts-based Hardcore band consistently delivered their mostly one to two minute songs at a blistering pace. The tongue-in-cheek humor continued with songs like “Me vs. Morrissey in the Pretentious Contest,” which, thereafter, the band played a set of pummeling, take-no-prisoners Hardcore songs. Guitarists Trevor Reilly and Mike Supina often seized the spotlight on songs like “5 to 9” and “Ice Man Left a Trail,” which featured blaring Thrash Metal solos and memorable Skate Punk licks. However, neither guitarist took away any attention from Bassist Brian J. Robinson, who the audience cheered and shouted for during the opening riff on “Skid Rock.” Throughout the entire performance, it was difficult to keep one’s eyes off of Vocalist Nuno Pereira, whose command of the stage was impressive to say the least. The crowd fed off his energy and sang along for the duration of the set. It was not just the guitar solos that bled into Metal territory though. Many songs themselves, along with Nicholas Pasquale Angelini’s drumming on “The Last Laugh” and “Mute Print” sound straight from a Metalcore record. A Wilhelm Scream’s genre-bending would contrast well with Pennywise’s thoroughbred Skate Punk sound, providing for a nice bit of diversity for the evening. They also conclude their North American touring April 19th before heading over to Australia for a string of already sold out shows in May.

Every man and woman in the venue was excited awaiting Pennywise to take the stage. While supporters received a nice dosage of the band in 2014 when they hit New York City for two nights as a part of the Summer Nationals Tour, this would be the first headlining appearance in some time in the area. For that reason, a mass of support filled the floor of Starland Ballroom with fans of all ages ready to have a good time and start their weekend a day early with a band many grew up spinning their CDs constantly.

Without further ado, Pennywise hit the ground running with their Skate Punk anthem “Fight Till You Die.” Pennywise’s backbone was supported by the drumming of McMackin, who proved from the first song how fast and aggressive Punk Rock can be. Songs like this and “Violence Never Ending,” from the group’s new album Yesterdays, showed how fresh old school Hardcore could sound. Pennywise, a group who has consistently put out releases throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, underwent a slow evolution over the years, and through it all, fans supported their creations. While this is true, overall, the group focused on songs from their early days of Hardcore and Skate Punk during their set at Starland Ballroom with tracks like “Living for Today” and “Pennywise” from their 1991 eponymous debut record. They also offered up “Perfect People” and “Same Old Story” from 1995’s About Time, which transmitted a vigor unto the now ravenous crowd. Also paying tribute to Punk’s past, they covered two classics; Bad Religion’s “Do What You Want” and the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” One could scarcely see an audience member who was not jumping in tempo with the latter.

Pumping out non-stop energy with each track they selected to perform, Lindberg sang with conviction and emotion in his facial expressions through “Living for Today,” “My God,” and a soldier dedication on “Broken.” Towards the very end of the set, Pennywise performed a Punk Rock cover of “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King, which also stimulated a large degree of audience participation. The band saved their biggest song for last and Starland Ballroom exploded with a wall of chants during the performance of “Bro Hymn,” which no doubt left every Pennywise fan in the crowd more than satisfied.

Sayreville thanked Pennywise, A Wilhelm Scream, Teenage Bottlerocket, and The Zombie Mafia for a night of fantastic Punk Rock full of high-energy from performer and audience members alike. Pennywise proved why they are still kings of the Punk Rock genre and how strong their influence has been on various generations of Punk. Whether one was either a seasoned Punk Rock veteran or a newcomer to the genre, it was clear that everyone filing out of the venue would be anticipating the groups the next time they came around to Central Jersey. While the latest touring cycle may be over, Belgium will have a chance to see the band at Groezrock before they come back stateside to rock at the X Games June 6th in Austin, Texas.

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