Pennywise play Full Circle @ Metropolis Fremantle
w/ The Bronx, Dan Cribb & The Isolated
Friday, November 3, 2018
Pennywise broke onto the scene back in 1988 and quickly rose to the realms of punk rock royalty, maintaining that status ever since. Twenty years ago they dropped their fourth album, Full Circle, which became one of the defining punk rock albums of the 90s and a must for any fan. Fight Till You Die set the tone immediately and was maintained for a full 42-minute, 14 track sequence of chaos.
It stood as a dedication to the tragic suicide of founding bassist, Jason Thirsk, notably via the most iconic and memorable track of the album, Bro Hymn (Tribute), a reworked version of Bro Hymn, from their 1992 self-titled album, as a dedication to Thirsk, who wrote the original lyrics. From beginning to end, the album is loaded with loud, heavy-hitting punk rock anthems; every song was brilliant.
Full Circle is what brought a healthy gathering of punk rockers and other society outcasts to Metropolis Fremantle on Friday night. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Full Circle, the Pennywise crew thought, “fuck it, let’s do a tour, and let’s do it down under,” and for that decision, Australia thanks them. Along for the rollercoaster ride of chaos was special guests, none other than fellow heavy hitters, The Bronx, and Perth natives Dan Cribb & the Isolated supporting.
Dan Cribb & The Isolated kicked the night off and set the stage with a slather of songs from their 2015 debut album, As We Drift Apart, plus a selection of new stuff thrown in there which went down a treat with the growing crowd. They closed with Dr. Zaius/Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z from Cribb’s latest endeavour, a pop punk tribute to The Simpsons. This was just a taste, there’s a whole lot more worth checking out on their Bandcamp page.
Though a little mellower than their successors, they certainly rocked it out and delivered to the crowd, providing an opportunity for everyone to loosen up and transition from the relative quiet to the impending brutality. A great local band that’s worth keeping an eye, and ear, on, if you’re not already.
Before long, the crowd gathered, and the place was packed, looking like a feeding frenzy scene from The Walking Dead as the they massed towards the stage, the atmosphere intensifying with every passing minute. Those that had experienced The Bronx live previously knew exactly what to expect, some even taking the opportunity to limber up in preparation for the mosh.
The Bronx are known from their intense, high energy shows, and they didn’t disappoint. They don’t do things by halves, it’s all or nothing, all the time, every time. Kicking off at 100 km/h, they didn’t slow down for their entire set, that included a sick setlist comprising what was quite possibly the best The Bronx setlist imaginable. Hearing Night Drop At The Glue Factory would have been a bonus, but even without it, the set was insane.
They kicked off with Sore Throat, and it was clear this was going to be all out warfare for the rest of the show. As soon as that guitar riff started, the chaos began, and everyone was instantly moving. The mosh went from stillness to instant anarchy, and the energy of frontman Matt Caughthran was contagious. Second song, Heart Attack American, saw Caughthran in the pit to deliver an all-out shit storm of a mosh, with almost everybody getting in on it. Here he remained for a few songs, leaving guitarists Joby Ford and Ken Horne, bassist Brad Mangers and drummer David Hadalgo Jr on stage to shred their instruments to oblivion, and that they did.
A few songs in saw Caughthran on one of the bars behind the mosh, announcing “Y’all motherfuckers must know, that if The Bronx was an Australian band, we’d be from motherfucking Perth,” which was met with an almighty roar from the crowd before kicking into The Unholy Hand, before he eventually crowd surfed back to the stage during Shitty Future. The melody of Two Birds saw a slight mellowing, but an uproar from the crowd as they sang along to the catchy chorus.
The announcement of “sharpen your swords” revealed the impending chaos of Knifeman which saw the crowd shouting out the lyrics along with Caughthran. Midway through, Caughthran was back in the mosh again, urging everyone to “get back, all the way back” while the rolling baseline continued, creating a large open space, the only time the floor was seen during their set, before announcing “it’s the last night motherfuckers, so I expect to see madness, when this song comes back in, I want to see fucking chaos”, and chaos he got. When the song kicked in, the entire crowd lost their freaking minds and charged upon him, all while attempting not to drown in the sea of bodies.
That same intensity was maintained, with Caughthran in the mosh, through Six Days a Week and Broken Arrow before making his way back to the stage for Around the Horn and a few other songs. The closed on History’s Strangers, with a roaring applause from the crowd following as the band walked off stage.
Honestly, nothing beats The Bronx live, there’s just an intense atmosphere that can’t be captured on a recorded track, it was absolute chaos, but holy shit, it was fucking awesome. They had the whole place moving, and the mosh was a literal cesspool of blood, sweat and beer.
Then Pennywise hit the stage 30 minutes later. The cheers that bellowed throughout the venue as the band came on stage and guitarist, Fletcher Bragge, announced “Let’s fuck some shit up people”, was a good indication the audience was ready for anything and a green light to the band to let rip.
We came for Full Circle, and that’s exactly what we got, a blistering album, chock-full with angst and emotion, from cover to cover. Strait up, they launched into Fight Till You Die, and the crowd transformed into a moving mass again. There was an instant eruption from the crowd once they started and it was nonstop the complete set as Pennywise unleashed reckless energy without a pause for breath which continued for the entire set. Frontman Jim Lindberg’s vocals slashed through every track over Dragge’s killer guitar riffs and Randy Bradbury’s shredding bass, while Byron McMackin smashed the skins and cymbals, and they seemed to enjoy it as much as the crowd did. It was a nuclear warhead aimed right for your ears.
When the defining bass groove intro for Society kicked in, the place went wild. Kicked off with Dragge announcing, like a presidential address, “20-year anniversary, Full Circle motherfuckers, 20 fucking years ago we wrote this motherfucker, Jim wrote this song 20 years ago, and the problems still fucking remain, we scream, and we yell, we try to rally the fucking troops, you fuckers, to change the world, and shit’s fucking worse off now than it’s ever been, what the fuck are we doing up here, fighting till we fucking die, Society motherfuckers”.
It was true, the song’s more relevant now than it’s ever been, but that didn’t stop people enjoying the moment of anarchy. It saw an endless supply of mosh goodness and stream of surfers to the barrier where security was waiting to catch. One crazy bastard even hit the mosh from the first floor balcony.
The anarchy continued through the rest of the album, each song seeming to raise the energy and intensity of the crowd even more. Lindberg regularly leaned towards the crowd, mic in hand, igniting them further as they belted out lyrics. Security doubled behind the stage barrier to deal with the constant flow of surfers and attempted stage divers.
Lindberg reinforced issues raised in the album when introducing Broken, with “This song, this is about always about getting back up, when you get knocked down, you keep getting up, you keep fighting, you never, ever, ever, give up”. Nowhere Fast fuelled one of the most intense pits of the set, which continued into What If I and Go Away.
One of the most emotive tracks on Full Circle, Did You Really?, was opened with a touching message from Lindberg, “The reason we done this album, guy named Jason Matthew Thirsk. One thing, a very important message we want to say, if you ever get down, you got a problem with drugs, you got a problem your friends, you got a problem with family, and you’re feeling alone, like you got nobody, you keep going on, call us, call a friend, call your parents, call suicide hotline, never ever give up, just keep going, always, that’s the message, things will get better, trust me.” A strong take-home message for the crowd before the band let loose with the song.
Next they played a few songs from other albums, plus a couple of covers, which went down a treat with the crowd. Extras included Same Old Story from ’95 breakthrough album About Time, a cover of Circle Jerks’ Wild in the Streets, Pennywise from the self-titled album, and our unofficial national anthem, Men at Work cover Down Under, which was another crowd fave. Pretty sure the entire crowd knew more lyrics of this song than the real national anthem. If you didn’t already consider them honorary Australians, you did after this.
Fuck Authority went off with a bang as the rebellious crowd got involved with every lyric while trashing out, clearly another favourite amongst the crowd. They followed with Ben E. King cover Stand By Me before finally jumping into the inevitable finale, and last track on Full Circle, Bro Hymn. Bro Hymn kicked off and was by far the biggest crowd pleaser of the night, demanding the biggest and loudest sing-along. Every single person in the venue chanted along with the band.
The downer of the night, on hearing Bro Hymn, was you knew that was the end. But as the eclectic crowed spewed onto South Terrace, there was not a disappointed face in sight. It was a night of chaotic anarchy that won’t be forgotten any time soon. Exhausted, sweaty, smelling of beer and body odour, and probably harbouring a couple of wounds and bruises, there was a sea of satisfaction as people flooded into Fremantle.
One crazy night, and one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a very long time, it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. With any luck, The Bronx will continue their annual visits down under and Pennywise will be back in 2019 for a Straight Ahead 20th anniversary tour. Hell, we’ll go for a 2018 25th anniversary tour of Unknown Road if it’s on the table.
Photos by J Lovell