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Pennywise: the renegades of punk

I broke my hip in the pit, Mildred.
  • I broke my hip in the pit, Mildred.

Pennywise didn't just make up most of the anthemic punk rock I listened to in high school. They had my middle school years covered also. In the early 1990s, Epitaph Records was already legendary for releases of Bad Religion and NOFX records, single handedly saving the slowly dying Southern California punk rock scene.

By 1993, they had not only added Pennywise to the label, but influential acts including Down by Law, SNFU and Rancid. Lead singer Jim Lindberg, guitarist Fletcher Dragge, drummer Byron McMackin and bassist Jason Thirsk released two EPs in the late '80s while they were all growing up in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Named after the evil clown from Stephen King's "IT," Pennywise were poised to blow up the SoCal punk scene.

Once the band signed to Epitaph in 1990, it was only one year later before the release of the band's self-titled, major label debut. "Pennywise" the album didn't just catch on like wildfire in the SoCal punk community, but made its way up to Central California and infected my 11-year old brain. The album was fast, raw and unapologetic, throwing out positive social statements as easily as songs about being BFFs.

"Unknown Road" was released in 1993, and while it wasn't very successful commercially, it afforded Pennywise enough cache to go on tour with The Offspring. "Unknown Road" found more maturity in the songwriting, while expanding the sound into the hardcore and anarcho-punk realms.

"About Time" was released in 1995 and the band became blindsided by both the good and the bad. The record became their first to chart on Billboard, but was the last to feature Jason Thirsk on bass, who left the band to seek help for his alcoholism, only to commit suicide shortly after.

Randy Bradbury joined the band on bass and they released their fourth full-length album, "Full Circle," dedicated to the memory of Thirsk. While the album is somewhat more somber than earlier releases, the band never pulls away from its hardcore roots, making the album a fitting tribute as well as a classic punk record.

As each new record was released, the band crept higher up the charts with 1999's "Straight Ahead" making it to #62, and 2003's "From the Ashes" getting up to #54. I had long since moved on from punk to hip-hop, but listening to these records for this piece brought about a beautiful nostalgia for days I didn't even think I remembered fondly.

"Reason to Believe" was released in 2009 and became one of their most successful albums, even without many sales. They released the record as a free download on Myspace, where over 400,000 copies were downloaded. Shortly after the album's release, lead singer Jim Lindberg left the band.

After replacing Lindberg with vocalist Zoli Teglas, they released their 10th album in 2012, "All Or Nothing."

The punchline to this is that by early 2013, Teglas wanted to leave the band and Lindberg rejoined just in time for the band's 25th anniversary. To this day, the band never plays a single song off of "All or Nothing" live. They don't even consider it a part of their discography on their website.

In 2014, the band released "Yesterdays," a compilation of unreleased songs written by deceased bassist Jason Thirsk, but otherwise hasn't released new material with Lindberg singing since 2008. In an October 2017 interview with Punkanormalactivity.com, Lindberg was quoted as saying their new album is finished and should be released this year.

Whether you're still into the punk scene or even if you were just a part of it sometime long in the past, Pennywise was there, yelling about being progressive before it was cool and giving no fucks when that really meant something.

Pennywise w/ Strung Out

Sat., March 10. 7pm.

Midtown Ballroom

51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend

$27.50

Tickets at eventbrite.com


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