Pennywise / Fireapple Red / Waterdown / Stretch Arm Strong
Manchester Academy 2 - 28.6.05

Being a staunch muso who goes to more gigs than a roadie I have always slated and derided Oasis fans, on account of the fact that they do not give support acts a chance. I felt a tad hypocritical in my keenness to catch the veteran staunch punks Pennywise, as I had a lurking tinge of hope that there were no opening acts tonight.

The machine gun effect guitar riffs and potent vocal performance of Brussels formed Fireapple Red, substantiated the view that support bands are a prerequisite, as they can create a mood and provide diversity. Fireapple combined the potency of Fu Manchu and Black Flag with the punk release and spirit of Good Riddance and Sick Of It All.

Metal punk with a sensitive edge to it followed in the form of Waterdown; a German outfit whose dual vocal approach gave them added potency. Their spirit reached a high in ‘Not A Sound’ and the piercingly sorrowful ‘Rather Be Dead’. Though the crowd mocked at times and occasionally hurled water at the quintet, it was impossible not to respond to their tumultuousness.

The Chris McLane fronted Stretch Arm Strong launched into a pop punk crossed with psychobilly set that had the dual aim of promoting their ‘Free At Last’ album, as well as kick-starting a “Kick the Clamp” campaign. McLane asked for donations of any denomination, to help them fight back against the unscrupulous clampers they fell prey to the previous night in London. Stretch added a bit of emo into their friendly, energetic and enthusiastic mix. This was borne out in ‘Hearts On Fire’ that saw the pit warming up in raucous fashion.

With over a 120 songs to their name and only around 75 minutes of the evening left the Jim Lindberg fronted, Californian punks Pennywise lit the touch paper of an explosive set,  showcasing their new found tension release that is encapsulated on latest album ‘The Fuse’. However, the Pennywise hardcore were out in force tonight and appeared immersed in nostalgia and ironically, feeling at home when the pungent ‘Homesick’ from the ‘Unknown Road’ album was performed with heart rending passion.

A liberating set was taking shape and producing a feel of good old fashioned punk that skirts with hardcore, but retains focus and the anger was in no way forced. This reached a high in ‘Own Way Of Life’ that was preceded by the band advising anyone who hated the job the were doing;  to show their boss the middle finger and go off and do what they want. Whoever, says that punk isn’t slightly romantic, has never heard; ‘My Own Country’ that looks at the how world would take shape if the listener were President of their own Country.

A cover of Black Flag's ‘Nervous Breakdown’ on request of an audience member showed Pennywise’s enthusiasm for their genre, as well as their ability to give new life to other bands music, with Jim producing an emotive display. Although the set was short for a band of their calibre, tonight Pennywise effectively stood up and made a King Canute like stance for the old fashioned punk ethos, against the tide of soul selling pop punk purveyors washing away independent thoughts of kids today.

David Adair

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