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    Fri, 28 Mar 2008 09:38:07

    Pennywise - Key Club, Hollywood - A damn good reason

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    During Pennywise's sold out record release show at the Key Club, the first words to come from the stage proved quite ominous. With an ear-to-ear smirk, guitarist Fletcher Dragge quipped, "Welcome to Thunderdome, ladies and gentlemen." Considering that the mosh pits had already broken out before the band played one note, Fletcher's remark hit the nail on the head. The crowd's energy could barely be contained, and the floor erupted into a massive pit right when the curtain opened. Nothing could be more punk rock. Few bands can elicit that rabid response from crowds, and at The Key Club, Pennywise gave everyone a release matched by few bands in their genre.

    Beyond the infectious, palpable energy that markedly defined the audience, Pennywise sounded absolutely killer. Plus, the band played a diverse set list with enough old and new material to keep the fans going crazy. The purpose of the show was to celebrate the release of the band's amazing, new album Reason to Believe (MySpace Records). Since the album's available for free on MySpace March 25-April 8, most of the audience already could sing every word of the new fare note-for-note. Launching into "As Long As We Can" from Reason, Pennywise immediately sparked a full-on, punk rock apocalypse. Fletcher remains one of punk's most technically talented shredders, busting out catchy leads intermittently after ripping through classic Pennywise riffs on the likes of "Rules Made Up For You" and "My Own Way Of Life." Randy Bradbury held a strong low end that kept everyone grooving on "Pennywise" and "Straight Ahead," as Byron McMakin bashed out those classic, speedy fills on his kit.

    Jim Lindberg belted out the chorus of "Fuck Authority" with more fire than any of his younger counterparts. He commanded the stage like some kind of punk rock warrior poet, rallying the crowd into battle. Pennywise breaks things down simply, and they write plain, old-fashioned, good songs. At one point, Jim said it best, "It's all about punk rock, good times and good friends." What more to do you need? Jim's found that, especially in the form of Fletcher, his on-stage foil. The two of them riff back and forth with one-liners like a classic TV comedic duo, and it makes for a memorable show. At one point Jim joked, "How about Fletcher for president?" After huge cheers, Fletcher's response elicited the biggest laughs: "I just need those felonies expunged from my record. Does anyone have a friend in the FBI?" Personality's been missing in punk, but Pennywise have that to spare.

    Later in the set, new track "Western World" ignited another pit and got the biggest sing-a-long of the new cuts. Even though Fletcher wryly introduced "One Reason" from their latest, the song also kept the crowd going. "Here's a new song, pretend like you know it," he exclaimed. After that, the band launched into a high energy "Bro Hymn" that found half the crowd on the stage singing with the band. Looking at the crowd on stage, chanting along, it was clear: MySpace has created more than an online community. It's as fiery as Thunderdome, and Pennywise are Mad Max.

    —Rick Florino

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