Pennywise @ Birmingham Academy, 15th May 2010


Telling friends and family that I’d stepped in as supply/cover reviewer at the last moment for the Pennywise gig elicited a response of tumbleweed haunting silence which, on reflection, I should have savored for its brief encounter given the impending sonic nemesis I was about to experience.

Over the past twenty years and more the band have been through some turbulent times in terms of personal tragedy and parting of ways but it seems they rigorously identify with both themselves and their ferociously loyal supporters as a family. If I was somewhat wary of this affectation before the gig I was certainly disabused of it very soon into it. The camaraderie is palpable, the sincerity manifest: ear bleeding loud though the medium may be.


Recent initiate frontman, Zoli Teglas, has the crowd in the charm of his glands. No hollow crown usurper him. He works them brilliantly with the rapport of a wily mongoose about to get its leg over a rattlesnake. There’s a swelter of shared vitality that bristles throughout the whole set. He smiles, he jokes, he checks out a ‘chick’ who’s sporting her Pennywise tattoo with pride. The kids have paid their money and he’s going to wring value for money blood out of every penny for them. He’s on their side and they love him for it.

The band’s name is derived from that Psycho/Coco the clown, malevolent red ballon bobbing bastard entity in Steven King’s cult arm achingly thick novel ‘IT’. That should have told me something. I’ll state now that punk rock, melodic hardcore, speed core, death thrash skate punk has not been top ten listening default setting on my ipod. However, this gig was an eye opener and, given the volume levels, may well have done the same to my viscera had I not had my Scout belt metal (irony, eh?) buckle well on tight. The gig was an amphetamine death masque grinning invitation into the realms of extreme noise territory. For the rammed 02 faithful it was an out of body experience: an hour into the armpit minging set very noticeable out of body experiences were nasally evident.


Bringing critical analysis in terms of subtleties of shade, texture and ambience to these volcanic, and yes, most likely reactionary (in nice way) genres is pointless. They work. New bucks come along to pick up the standard but it’s only matter of tweaking. They know it works and it don’t want fixing. Such is the longevity of its appeal. Mention zeitgeist to these kids and they’d dismiss it as a new Bavarian white cider (actually they wouldn’t, would they?). The unique selling point is to attach oneself to Titanic anchor chain jump leads, tap into the national grid and hot wire into Planet Turbo Testosterone for ninety minutes.


Toxic waste dredger guitarist, with a panache for depth-charge descending power chords, Fletcher Dragge, is a man mountain, built like a breeze-block shit house and this is meant with as equal affection as when he implored us, as ‘Bastards’ to get off our, ‘Motherf**kin’ assholes and get our shit together!’ by means of introducing the next song, ‘Waiting’. Meanwhile, as is well known, bored drummers soon get restless and with that in mind it would appear that Byron McMacklin has dispensed with sticks and been fitted with prosthetic chainsaws. Nothing else explains his ability to match Zoli Teglas’ Hadron Collider speed rap during the likes of ‘Living for Today, ‘Society’, and ‘Nowhere Fast’. Meanwhile, Randy Bradbury, what a name! nonchalantly plucks away at his resin treated whale vein bass strings causing involuntary sub-woofer bowel movements in Hell.

An oldie, ‘Greed’ has Teglas nobly ranting against the venal amorality of the Wall Street swinging dick, Masters of the Universe financiers. It certainly lends a succinct overview to collateral debt obligations meltdown that the kids might have not have grasped on Radio 4 ‘Moneybox’. As with many a number Teglas has the punters air punching and ‘whoo, whooing’ in chorus with the mic as much in their face as his.

There’s no doubting that the moral compass in their lyrics is magnetized firmly in the direction of self-determination, self worth and challenging the hypocrisies the state machine. All admirable sentiments and to be applauded. Quite how the new Lib/Con love doves might embrace, ‘Fuck Authority’ in to their ‘Youf’ manifesto remains to be seen. And one can only imagine Pennywise playing Athens right now. 300 Spartans on security?


The main set closes with an endearing sing along a cappella rendition of ‘Stand by Me’. Check that familial connection again? Encore? well, the initiate will have to help me here. The set list has three numbers: Home Sick, Alien and Bro Hymn. I’m guessing here that oldie Bro Hymn might have been the one we were prepped for earlier on with the mantra chant chorus of yes, you’ve guessed it…’Woooo whooo, woh woo woh’. Opps, missed one there, doh! I will stand being corrected. The last times I had this much fun was a: when Earth did their first gig under the name Black Sabbath, b: The Pink Fairies, and c: The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. The first you know, you are genetically obliged to check out the latter two.

Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Shaz R

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