Pennywise & Sick of It All at the 9:30 Club

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Pennywise photo

What makes a band “quintessential?” Or, to up the ante, “legendary?” Nowadays, the typical so-called “legendary,” active band has not released a relevant piece of music in at least two decades, and is fading away in the world of casinos and state fairs. But not all legendary bands are quintessential, and vice versa. For that reason, DC punk and hardcore fans got a real treat when they got two bands that embody both tags, yet are still very active, still making essential music, and can still fucking tear the roof off of any venue.

Pennywise and Sick of It All did just that on Tuesday night at the 9:30 Club. Both have been in existence for a combined 36 years. Some of the older, faithful fans in the crowd even brought their kids along. But despite this long road behind them, nobody in the bands or the crowd showed a single sign of slowing down.

After a messy and awkward set from Boston’s Lost City Angels left the initially thin crowd bored and impatient. Sick of It All ran onstage, and the crowd seemed to triple in size and went insane the moment they lashed into Good Lookin‚Äô Out. The NYC hardcore quartet did not let up for a split second thereafter. Even when they stopped between songs to provide a bit of banter, the crowd anxiously awaited the next lashing riff out of Peter Koller‚Äôs guitar as if on the verge of a riot.

The show’s greatest moment came when vocalist Lou Koller split the crowd into two halves down the center. He and his band mates had overseen this thousands of times. They invented it. After a tense moment of feedback buildup, the band tore into Scratch the Surface, the two sides converged, and the entire floor was in ecstatic frenzy.

Sick of it All photo
Sick of it All

Sick of It All capped their set with a reverent cover of Gorilla BiscuitsStand Still, and their resident anthem Stand Down. The Koller brothers, along with bassist Craig Setari and drummer Arman Majiri, stood down triumphantly and left the stage as the crowd roared gratefully despite the fact that the show was far from over.

Pennywise had a tough act to follow, and essentially copied Sick of it All’s set model. They played a generous mix of old and new material, included a cover of a revered straight-edge hardcore band (Minor Threat, in this case), and ended with their (and arguably the skate-punk subgenre’s) signature anthem, “Bro Hymn.”

Shared sentiments aside, the West Coast punk progenitors completely held their own. Breakneck rhythm section Byron McMackin and Randy Bradbury, and especially singer Jim Lindberg and grizzly-bear-sized guitarist Fletcher Dragge, were much more politically motivated, ripping through call-to-arms’ like My Own Country and Fuck Authority. Everything hit, from promising new songs like Disconnect to classics like their opener Fight Till You Die, with a majority of the perpetually-amped crowd singing along.

Neither of these two quintessential, legendary punk bands has ever changed their sound at all, but they are still as interesting and exciting as ever. As they demonstrated to the devoted masses on Tuesday night, Pennywise and Sick of It All nailed terrific formulas early on and stayed faithful to them, bringing both sides of the country together with brotherhood, positively, and an infinite surplus of volume and power.