19 Oct 2018
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Gig Review: Pennywise @ The Studio, Auckland 07/11/2017

09 Nov 2017 // A review by Alex Moulton

Turning up to The Studio venue, and you can’t help but be impressed at how well things had been put together to this point. Bringing an international band to NZ, and selling out a venue with a capacity of somewhere around 1000-1200, on a Tuesday night, with the gig announcement only two weeks before the show was penned down to happen. The crowd was lined up along K’ Road, happily milling about as they slowly waddled towards the entrance. Those that were not in the mood to line up were hitting up the bar next door (which was also playing Pennywise on the playlist) waiting for the queue to subside.

Heading inside, and you could see things had already started to get a little bit cramped. People were evenly spaced about the venue, and the four bars on site were doing a great trade. With the ever-increasing number of patrons entering the venue, I nabbed a spot on the front and waited for the supporting acts to begin.

Animal Party were the first act up on stage and they put on a hell of a show. I was already impressed with their efforts when they previously opened for Californian post-hardcore group Slaves. They have refined their sound further since then and provide a commanding performance. Vocalist Jesse Smith’s shouting style is full of passion and a surprising amount of melody, which makes the music incredibly engaging to watch and listen to. The clarity of sound was dominating, with some of the best sounding drums I’ve heard from the stage in recent times, despite only consisting of half of the usual drum kit. The crowd were reasonably receptive providing ample applause and cheers. My only real issue was the order of their set list, where the two tracks that were most well-received were performed first. Would have been great to see the performance end as strongly as it had started.

Next up were Flirting with Disaster, who have that pop punk sound that Blink 182 rose to fame with in the early 2000's. Energetic songs with a lot of agility shown in the performance of their tracks, but their sound lacked the lucidity that the opening band had. Guitars and bass melded together, with very quiet back-up vocals from Tony who was performing double duties on the bass. The crowd were mixed in their reaction to Flirting with Disaster; some of the crowd cheering and starting to move and mosh about, while much of the crowd was booing and jeering before the band had even started. Unfortunate, because there was definitely some quality original material being performed on stage, alongside a brilliant cover of Mellincolin’s Penguins and Polar Bears. Credit to them, even despite the jeers, they continued on, and amped up their performance and managed to win over a larger proportion of the crowd by the end of their set.

Storm the Gates, had released set times of the bands earlier in the day, and to my chagrin I noted that we had a 50-minute wait before Pennywise would take to the stage. The floor had gotten to the point where if you moved, you lost your spot and would never get it back, so there I waited for 50 minutes listening in on the conversations of the patrons around me as I waited, and watching the crew set up the stacks on stage.

10:30pm finally coming around, Pennywise took to the stage, and you could instantly feel the crowd surging forward. Without wasting any time, the band jumped straight into Fight Til You Die, which seemed a pretty accurate portrayal of what I went through as a member of the crowd; battling to stay on my feet and trying not to crush the woman standing between myself and the barrier. 

I managed to last three songs before I had to throw in the towel and escape from the crowd as I was spending all my energy on trying not to be crushed, rather than actually getting to enjoy the music. Turns out, the pit was larger than expected, and trying to get out of the crowd during Society was quite the poor decision, as the crowd pushed back with more gusto; like being trapped in the middle of a scrum in rugby. Nobody moved aside; they all just reacted and pushed me back forward. It took two full songs before I managed to escape, dripping wet, with what was mostly other people’s sweat and beverages, I headed towards the screen to watch from the back… to find the screen was not working. There I remained, trapped at the back for the rest of the evening, switching between being able to see flashes of light from the floor at the rear of the bottleneck, to seeing flashes of light from the upstairs sauna areas (the experience very much reminded me that hot air rises, and the pit created a lot of it). 

From the band’s point of view it must have been a great sight to see; a sold out crowd with such enthusiasm. But from the perspective of someone in the crowd, it was a mess, and the only way you could have gotten full enjoyment from it was if you had gotten your fill at the bars. Pennywise performed a 22-song setlist, which literally started with the first 13 tracks in order from the Full Circle album (of which the show was celebrating the 20th anniversary of), followed by a mix of other Pennywise tracks and cover songs from the likes of Ben E. King, and Beastie Boys, before ending with Bro Hymn. An exhausting night overall, and one that really has me divided on whether I enjoyed it or not. It was definitely attended by passionate fans that were emotionally invested and sang along with every single song, but this was not a gig you could just spectate, you had to participate and get in the fray. With the size and rowdiness of the crowd, Powerstation might have been a better venue choice and provided a better view for all the punters.


Review and photos provided by Alex Moulton

 

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