Pennywise with Strung Out at the Commodore Ballroom, 3/4/18
Building up hype for their new record that is due to be released next month, Pennywise has embarked on a West Coast North American tour with fellow Californian punk rockers Strung Out. After kicking off the Canadian leg of the tour with a sold out night in Victoria, the band headed to Vancity to play yet another sold out gig.
The night was opened by Mobina Galore, a Winnipeg power punk duo, who played a short yet animated set. They warmed up a crowd that was no doubt impressed by the energy the two-piece brought to the room.
By the time Strung Out took to the stage the room was packing out. Strung Out has played in Vancouver regularly throughout their career and were last in the city when they opened for Reverend Horton Heat in September last year. Fans will know that they recently parted ways with drummer of over 20 years, Jordan Burns, and are set to release a new acoustic EP in May. The band has not yet announced who will be filling Burns’ shoes and also made no point of mentioning who had joined them on the drums during the show.
Keeping the focus solely on the music, frontman Jason Cruz barely addressed the crowd until a few songs into the set when he told everybody to “fuck shit up!” before the band went straight into playing their riff heavy track “Bring Out Your Dead.” A couple of fans complained about the vocals but overall the set was well received. Strangely the band opted not to play any songs off their upcoming EP and instead selected older tracks, closing with fan favourite “Matchbook.” Perhaps an acoustic Strung Out tour will be in the pipeline sometime soon?
By the time Pennywise kicked off their set the crowd were raring to go. Celebrating 30 years as a band, their new record, Never Gonna Die, is due to be released at the end of next month and will be their twelfth studio album. If the title track is anything to go by then this record stays in line with the familiar sound that fans have come to expect from Pennywise. It will not disappoint. Check it out on YouTube, but be careful what you search otherwise you might end up watching a video of Pennywise the clown dancing to Rick Astley on loop!
Shortly into their set the energy in the venue peaked after vocalist Jim Lindberg yelled “let’s see some fucking action!” before Pennywise erupted into their stubborn, rebellious song “My Own Way.” Toying with the audience, Lindberg thanked the Vancouver crowd for being the “fastest sellout show in America” before laughing it off and retracting his comment with “oh, did I just say that?!”
Memorable tracks from the night included “Fight Till You Die,” which the band introduced as a song to put on your stereo that will “make you feel a whole lot better,” and a cover of “Wild in the Streets” by the Circle Jerks (which is a cover song in itself). Another cover of the Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” was a hit with the crowd as drinks were spilt as arms were thrown into the air.
The band played with heart throughout their set and in between songs Lindberg was playful yet political with the crowd. “Build a fence to keep us in Canada!” he joked, reflecting on the current US political environment before introducing politically charged track “Society” – a song they “wrote 20 years ago that is more relevant now than it was then.”
Going out on a high, Lindberg announced “this last song is for all our friends here” before breaking into the sing-a-long anthem “Bro Hymn.” A small crowd lingered, waiting for an encore that wasn’t to be. As the lights came up and people trickled out of the venue and onto Granville Street, the buzz of a night of fast paced punk rock will be sure to keep fans ticking through until the next show.