Friday, March 4th wasn’t any ordinary night: It was the beginning of what would be known as one of the greatest sequences of shows in modern punk rock history. Hermosa Beach’s finest punk band, Pennywise, was due to start their first of five shows at the Garden Amp in Garden Grove.
Starting with their self-titled 1991 inaugural album and moving through the five nights in album order, Pennywise fans were destined to have the time of their life whether they purchased tickets to one show or all five.
Night one started out with a few kinks. There was a rumor that Pennywise was recording a live album and there were issues with equipment that needed to get worked out. Due to this, sound check started later than anticipated, which ate into set times and Slaughterhouse’s set had to be axed. Cigar was on next and their set also had to be cut short, but they gave it all they could. They shone through with ultimate resiliency and you could tell they still had fun.
T.S.O.L. played next and the crowd loved seeing Jack Grisham do this thing. Walking the stage from one side to the other in his suit jacket and T-shirt, you could see he was born to entertain. They played every tune like the seasoned punk vets they are while fans jumped on stage until Grisham motioned them off in a nice way. Close to the end of their set, he had to tell the crowd to “keep it moving,” which everyone got a kick out of.
The crowd for night one was different than the other nights; it was older, old school Pennywise fans. It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of the crowd was from Hermosa Beach themselves, and just about every person wore all black. I spoke to quite a few people who told me how many decades they have been Pennywise fans. Being a massive fan myself, this brought joy to my little punk heart.
Another highlight of the evening was the debut of Pennywise’s signature blonde ale from El Segundo Brewing called “Unknown Road.” I’m not a beer person but I did purchase one and it was smooth and delicious (just like the album).
Finally, Pennywise hit the stage! Show time! As soon as they hit their first note, the crowd went completely bananas – and I mean that in every sense of the word! There was a guy from out of state dressed in a banana costume that danced around the mosh pit at every show. At one point, his friend wore a gorilla mask and chased him in front of the stage. It caught each band’s attention and they would remark on “Banana Man” each set.
Back to the show… It was like a tornado of hair, skin, sweat, and glee until 10 p.m. sharp. Not only did they play their first album, but they added songs from Minor Threat and Bad Religion, plus their songs “Society,” “Perfect People,” and “Fuck Authority.” After those fan favorites, they finished with “Bro Hymn.” There was some curiosity as to which version of “Bro Hymn” they were going to play with the first album show. The first album has a version siting “Canton, Colvin, Nichols, this one’s for you,” instead of the more popular version they typically sing, “Jason Matthew Thirsk this one’s for you” off their album “Full Circle.” But in true Pennywise flavor, they stuck with their brother singing the “Jason Thirsk” version and let the crowd pile on the stage for the finale.
The crowd for night two was very similar, but different. The clothing colors offered a bit more variety than black and the fans seemed a bit more relaxed. TheLine opened and played their popular “Metaphor for War,” which got the crowd warmed up for Sprung Monkey, whose singer, Steve Summers, dedicated a song to his dad in a touching way. Being a San Diego band, it was nice to see them travel to the OC again.
H2O was up next and rallied the crowd into a frenzy with their popular New York Hard Core songs like “5 Year Plan” and “Nothing to Prove.”
One of the coolest things about H2O’s set was that front-man Toby Morse’ son, Max, played the drums and proved he’s a natural!
“Unknown Road” is one of my favorite punk albums ever and it was part of my introduction to punk rock, so this night was extra special to me. Seeing Jim, Randy, Byron and Fletcher play the songs that format so many adolescent lives was like watching history being made. The band played with so much energy and feeling, you’d never guess this album came out in 1993 – almost 30 years ago!
Each night had fans climbing on stage and diving face first onto the willing and unwilling crowd below. If he knew they were from out of state or out of country, front-man Jim Lindberg would occasionally grab their go-pro, camera or phone and sing into it while walking around the stage. You can imagine what a priceless souvenir that must have been for them. Every night there were people there from all over the world; Brazil, Canada, the East Coast, and more! On this night, a father and his grown son from Ensenada, Mexico sat next to us and had their arms filled with Pennywise merchandise to take home.
We were given a week’s break to rest and recoup from the whirlwind of the first two shows, but then it was time for night number three.
Night three brought Dissension and Pulley. Pulley has been around for a while and appeared to enjoy every second on the stage. Don’t let it fool you that front-man Scott Radinsky is an former major-league baseball player; that dude can rock out like any other great punk performer. Due to an unfortunate illness in The Adolescents camp, we had a surprise fill in: T.S.O.L. was happy to step in and play for them. Jack Grisham joked that he wasn’t feeling well during their original set, so he had to wear a diaper and whoever was sick in The Adolescents should just suck it up.
Once Pennywise started their 1995 album “About Time,” the crowd was ready to go in more ways than one. The crowd had apparently enjoyed many adult beverages and, in my area at least, everyone was REALLY into singing the songs – whether they knew the words or not! It was all good though and made for a memorable evening.
Night four was “Full Circle” and it was the evening I heard the most pre-show chatter about. This album really helped put Pennywise on the map with the songs “Society” and “Fight Till You Die.” This was also the first album to feature bassist Randy Bradbury after the untimely passing of previous bassist Jason Thirsk.
Orange County’s own Chaser kicked the show off right with their skate punk songs and Jughead’s Revenge bassist Eric Bootow filling in. Authority Zero was next and blew the crowd away, per usual. Front-man Jason Devore was really feeling it that night and went into an amazing rendition of “Rattlin’ Bog” for St. Patrick’s Day. This man sang faster than I ever realized a human being could sing. The huge unruly crowd went from a collective awestruck silence to cheering so loud you almost couldn’t hear the singer.
Good Riddance took the stage next and had a smoke machine to make their set that much more exciting. Actually, every band had some smoke, but for whatever reason I remember it being super thick for GR. Maybe that was just the flare they brought to the stage as they tore it up playing songs that everyone loves.
After Pennywise completed this beloved album, they played Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings,” which you don’t normally hear covered at a punk show. It was cool to hear the band reach into their roots and play something different than people were expecting. When they played a fan favorite from their first album, “Stand by Me,” they asked Jason Devore to sing which I had never seen them do before.
To get someone that can sing with the same caliber of energy that won’t disappoint the crowd for such a meaningful song was truly impressive and Jason KILLED it!
The last and final night of five shows was opened by OC band Urethane. Skateboarding legend Steve Caballero (you know, the Vans shoe Half Cabs? Yeah, THAT Steve Caballero) is the guitarist and plays as well as he skates! I eavesdropped on a conversation behind me of someone say where the person said he liked Urethane because they were a punk rock version of Jawbreaker, and I couldn’t agree more. Jim Lindberg even came out and guest sang on one of their songs and that was a real treat for those that showed up early!
Up next was Voodoo Glow Skulls. If you know one thing about OC Music News, it’s that we all love us some Voodoo! Front-man Efrem Schulz leapt onto the stage in his Mexican wrestling mask and bright colored poncho, and tore it up! He worked that stage like a circus ringleader and twice he jumped into the audience, ran to the back row, giving people hi-fives and letting fans sing on the mic.
Strung Out had a hard act to follow, but they did so with flying colors. They are well loved by OC and the surrounding areas, and it showed with their crowd. Their bassist worked the stage as far as possible to be sure no one was left out.
Pennywise was honoring their 1999 album, “Straight Ahead” for night five, and had some extras afterwards. There was more Minor Threat and… the announcement of a sixth show! Fletcher told the crowd that at that moment, tickets were on sale for a sixth show the following Friday night. The set list would consist of the top 15 songs chosen by the fans via a Google Doc from the previous five albums they just played. You could feel the excitement in the air for that set list and curiosity for the opening bands!
Now, for the real grand finale night of Pennywise! We saw punk band Dead Fucking Last (or DFL as the kids call them) kick the show off, and as the sun was still shining, you could see the happiness on people’s faces for those that missed the previous five sold-out nights. There were many more children here than previous nights, and if you want to take your kids to a punk show, this is the perfect venue! I even saw a few baby strollers, which was a first for me at a punk show. As a mom, this also filled my little punk heart with joy.
Agent Orange was up next and blew the crowd away with their diversity in punk and radical surf tunes. Pennywise then came one with “Fight till You Die,” and went into some of the biggest fan favorites: “Unknown Road,” “Dying to Know,” “Come Out Fighting,” “My Own Way,” and of course, “Straight Ahead,” “Fuck Authority,” and “Bro Hymn.”
The six nights of Pennywise was an extraordinary event to witness that will etch itself in punk history as an “I was there” story for everyone that went to any of these shows. Pennywise has been playing for 30 years, but they bring the energy and gusto of 20 year olds. Each show is impressive and worth every single second.
EVENT PHOTO GALLERY
SID 220406 | TRACI TURNER, EDITOR
ALL Photo Images by Jose Johnny Corona, Jr. | The Corona Chronicles