I miss my truck. You see, I used to have a pickup truck. 1999 Toyota Tacoma, 4-wheel drive, decked-out with about 30 stickers adorning the back sliding window. All the greats were represented: Kid Dynamite, Hot Water Music, Bad Religion, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Descendents, Black Flag, Strike Anywhere, Avail, Dillinger Four, Against Me!, Dropkick Murphys, and of course Sick of It All and Pennywise. My point: Sometimes you gotta let things go, and move on. I recently sold the truck and purchased a new vehicle, yet I love to revisit all the great times I had in that truck driving to shows up and down the East coast. So with the chance to see two of my favorite bands from my adolescent years together in a small club together, it was time to take a trip in my new vehicle, 2 hours away to Washington, D.C.
Boston’s own Lost City Angels kicked the night off to what seemed to be a somewhat lethargic crowd. Now, I could be wrong, but I had heard rumors this was a 18+ show, and at first the crowd was sparse, which surprised me for this bill. Nonetheless, LCA played like the room was filled to capacity. If you are unfamiliar with their work, Lost City Angels are comprised of former members of yesteryear’s Spring Heeled Jack, yet sound NOTHING like them. The play a fusion of street punk mixed with high energy rock'n’roll. Think early Explosion. And despite their best efforts, the entire night would be plagued by a terrible sound system. Completely bass-heavy, the guitars and vocals of every band were completely muffled. Regardless, it was still a great set, filled with tracks from both full-lengths, the self-titled and new LP Broken World. “Liberation,” “Clutching At Shadows,” “Broken World,” and my personal favorite (since the online posting of their demo a few years back) “Edge of 21” all found their way to the set list, amongst others. My highlight of the set was, without question, the insane drumming by Adam “fucking” Shaw. The man plays like he’s possessed. Have you ever watched someone play and just think of how many heads they must go through? I’d like to ask Adam that myself. Next time they come though your town, be sure to check them out.
There’s not much I can write about Sick of It All that hasn’t been written, or said, before. If you live under a rock somewhere in Antarctica, Sick of it All OWN hardcore. You wanna play in a hardcore band, first consult Sick of It All. Patent pending. You argue your Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains all you want, but Sick of It All stripped the jazz from Black Flag, the speed from Bad Brains and the preaching from Minor Threat and created straight hardcore. This isn’t a knock on those others listed, simply a reaffirmation of Sick of It All’s place in my mind’s “Hardcore Hall of Fame."
On this evening, Sick of It All were on point. I’d honestly say the problems with the sound system may have made Sick of It All sound better. Bass-heavy? No problem. Vocals being drowned out? Shit, if anything, Lou would see that as a challenge, not a problem. All facets of SOIA’s lengthy catalog made their way into the set including my favorite of the night “Paper Tiger (Faking the Punk),” “Relentless,” “Disco Sucks…Fuck Everything,” the REAL inspiration for the “Braveheart game” -- “Scratch the Surface,” “Injustice System,” “Call to Arms,” “Sanctuary,” “Just Look Around” (with joking aimed at Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed for not paying “royalties” for lyrics of this song used) and of course, the always fun to sing along to closing anthem “Step Down.”
And then there was one. Say what you will, but for years Pennywise made consistent music that I loved, and still love today. I’ll admit the past few albums haven’t been my cup of malt liquor, but I still break out Full Circle, Unknown Road, About Time and Straight Ahead on a semi-regular basis. And live, Pennywise never disappoint.
The entire set was fast-paced singing along, with Jim, Fletcher and company leading the way. “Society,” “Perfect People,” “Every Single Day,” and older favorites like “Pennywise” and “Final Chapters” keeping me in that groove. Even though I highly expected it (I mean, it was D.C. after all), we were treated to the Minor Threat cover of the same name. Fletcher made a brief comment that the first time they played it at the old 9:30 Club, which I think I attended about 12 years ago; they were afraid they’d get their ass kicked for playing it.
Despite how you feel about Pennywise, for many, they were the gateway drug of punk. I saw them as one of my first shows, and am glad they are still going today, 16 years later. And in my humble opinion, I’d rather see kids brought in listening to Pennywise than the latest fashion obsessed band with make-up on their faces and dollar signs in their eyes.