Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
September 23, 2022
Supports: Circle Jerks and CIVIC
‘Security never stood a fucking chance” – some sweaty bloke missing a shoe.
Have you been been dumb enough to drive to Sydney? It’s kucked. The parking is fixed, it’s chockers with one way streets, no-right-turns and is filled to the brim with gronks behind the wheel that must’ve given their driving examiner a “favour” to get their license. Yet here I am, a stone cold legend, getting a park in an unmarked spot a block from the famous Enmore Theatre. To top my excellence off, I’m an hour early for tonight’s festivities, so it’s best I nick off to the Duke of Enmore pub for a cheeky pint.
I bee-line it to the bar and order the most environmentally friendly looking beer on offer, so as not to offend the locals. Local thrash/death weapons Flaming Wreckage are doing soundcheck to a sea of Pennywise shirts as Skid Row is blasted over the loudspeaker at high volume. I could easily set up camp here but I’m on a promise. Tonight I’m out to witness history. Pennywise have returned to Australia, a country they’ve been to at least 15 times since their initial outing here in 1995, but this time they’re bringing seminal punk band Circle Jerks with them for their first trip down under in their 40+ years on this planet. I’m not missing this for quids.
On the way to the Enmore I run into Aussie punk rock legend Blackie from Hard-Ons and Nunchukka Superfly and ask him how excited he is to see Circle Jerks in Australia for the first time.
“I’ve seen them before” he grins.
“Of course you bloody have”, I quip.
“But he’s a legend. I’m excited.”
All smiles. What an absolute machine. I didn’t gush at all.
I roll into the Enmore and it’s already busy at the merch table. Amongst the rabble on the hunt for a shirt is a young lass with the same haircut as the singer of The Chats, but she wears it better. I grab a stubby holder and peel left up the stairs to take my seat where the two old hecklers from the Muppet Show sit.
Civic kick off proceedings and despite their growing popularity as a killer band, the place is bone dry. A few stragglers have made it for the start but most of the ticket holders are propping up the bar and still making their way in. Anyone outside should have no issues hearing them though because they’re louder than Elton John’s wardrobe and I’m fortunate enough to be sitting on top of the speakers. Three songs in, the place is filling up quickly and everyone is digging it. This Friday night punk crowd is already excitable and some questionable dancing is popping up on the dance floor as a result. Frontman Jim McCullough stalks the stage looking like he’s itching for a fight and drummer David Forcier looks like he just told his brickie boss to stick his job up his arse. “This place is beautiful” says Jim as they earn themselves a few new fans including the bloke camped out behind me from Manchester, UK, whose hometown mates suggested he suss this mob out.
Between sets it’s like a frat party. Blokes without shirts, beer getting thrown around like it’s free, strangers yelling at each other from an inch away. Not because it’s loud. But because their hearing is already blown out. The age demographics are widely varied tonight. Pennywise and Circle Jerks have been around so long that this whole night has become one multi-generational affair. Whole families are here. Fathers and daughters. Mothers and daughters. There might even be the odd grandparent scattered in the masses. But for 95% of this crowd, the next band on stage have been around longer than they have.
“This is Greg, this is Zander, I’m Keith, this is our newest member, THE Joey C…and we’re The Circle Jerks”. Bloody oath they are. Australia has waited over 40 years for this lot to roll up and these icons from Hermosa Beach, California aren’t making us wait for a second longer. They rip straight into ‘Deny Everything’ and in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence they’ve already kicked everybody’s arse. Down on the stage there’s half a trees worth of paper laid out in front of each member with a setlist written on it that has to be 25 songs long. If they want half a chance of getting through all of it then frontman Keith Morris has to reign in his between song banter. But if I’m honest, I could listen to the legend talk all night. He’s a true storyteller and if any man could embark on his own spoken word tour then it’s this punk icon.
I look to the crowd on the dance floor and there’s a proper storm brewing. The mob are frothing hard and in the middle of it all stands one lone hi-vis security guard acting like he stands a chance if things get proper hectic. He would be better off ditching the hi-vis and joining in. Circle Jerks are pulverising this theatre to within an inch of collapse and the moshing masses aren’t letting them do it on their own. Fletcher from Pennywise recently let us know that drummer Joey C is “just ripping balls” and it’s fair to say that he’s right. He’s flogging the skins like they’ve been a very naughty boy as broken sticks go flying in all directions. Not the first time he’s played to Aussie audiences either, having toured here with Queens Of The Stone Age back in 2004 when he replaced Dave Grohl.
The youngsters were tearing through their 300 song set when all of a sudden, it was done. No wrap up, Keith asking on the mic “Are we done?” as guitarist Greg Hetson exits the stage with his guitar like he’s taking his bat and going home. Some one must’ve said their time is up and no one in the audience is happy about it but Keith leans in to the mic and says. “We’ll be back. When Pennywise are done, we’ll be back. We’ll play a full set for you. “
Some Wolverine looking bloke on the balcony is eyeing off a way down into the pit while some polka mariachi version of Iron Maiden‘s ‘Run To The Hills‘ is playing over the speakers. The ballsy dickhead jumps off the edge of the balcony, onto a nearby speaker stack, drops down onto the stage, then into the crowd, out of sight of security. It was genuinely impressive, if not fucking stupid. The seccies on the barrier watched on, knowing there was little they could do. Little Wolvie gets in the pit, turns around and flips off everyone up in the balcony. A lady from security detail comes up to me later in the night and asks if it was me that did it.
“Would I be up here if I did?”
“Well who was it then?”
I point to the sea of bodies on the dance floor and say
“I don’t know, Maybe one of those blokes!!!”
After a few more mariachi versions of well known songs (I saw you all singing along to ‘Living On A Prayer’ you pack of heathens), Pennywise grab their gear and roll out on stage. Frontman Jim Lindberg raises a hand as he leans into the mic.
“HELLOOOO. WE’RE PENNYWISE FROM HERMOSA BEACH CALIFORNIA. HOW THE FUCK YOU DOING? ARE YOU READY? ARE YOU FUCKING READYYYYY???”
Bedlam. Absolute godless anarchy. The fellas launch straight into ‘Fight ’Til You Die’ and the churning superspreader below us turns on it’s head. Bassist Randy Bradbury and drummer Byron McMackin kick off ‘My Own Country’ and it’s the apocalypse. The bloke in hi-vis has very wisely exited the pit. It’s that or he’s been swallowed up in the maelstrom of bodies on show tonight. Either way, him and his seccie mates are in for a long night.
THIS is exactly what Australia needed, a Pennywise show after the last two and a half filthy years. Guitarist Fletcher Dragge is primed. He’s been itching for a return to Australia and still has fond memories of their first trip to this great land back in 1995. The bottle holder strapped to his mic stand is always armed with a Corona and if that isn’t enough, his Pringle can full of grog is propped up on his speakers. Does not miss a beat though, despite the fact he’s had a gut full and is on a lean.
There’s no new songs on show tonight. Not one. This is a celebration utilising the plethora of old favourites from Pennywise’s impressive and substantial catalogue. The crowd moves and sings along with the band, it’s almost like muscle memory has kicked in. Despite it being years since we saw each other last, everyone knows exactly what to do.
I catch security looking at each other shaking their heads. They’re understaffed, hugely outnumbered, miles out of their depth and entirely unprepared for what’s about to happen.
Fletcher said that tonight was going to be “therapeutic and emotional”, especially when they launch into their closer, the all time classic ‘Bro Hymn’. Byron launches into the bass line, the chorus of “WHOOOOAAAH OH OH OH!!!!” is sung by all and the gaps between the barricade and the stage start opening up. One bloke is walked away by the seccies as two more climb on the dais. By the second chorus, there’s at least a dozen unwelcome bodies on stage and growing. Soon enough Jim is standing on the drum riser as the lads from Pennywise are pushed to the back of the platform. There are punters packed from curtain to curtain and I can’t help but think of the floor collapse that happened in this theatre back in March at the Genesis Owuss gig.
Absolute scenes as ‘Bro Hymn’ finishes and the boys from Hermosa Beach exit out the back. The crowd is staying though and despite being asked to leave, they hang about singing “WHOOOOAAAH OH OH OH!!!!” A minute or so later, someone puts AC/DC on and everyone departs, with most of them missing half their wardrobe. A few blokes are wandering around with one shoe on, desperately looking for the other.
Tonight will go down in history and one that everyone here will never forget. I’ve seen Iggy Pop load a stage up with crowd members but they were invited and the staff were prepped for it. Superfan Neven Latimer flew over from New Zealand to attend every show on this tour and he said “It was just the Sydney show that was mental. I noticed there wasn’t enough security, they were getting attacked and people were rushing the stage. Also someone lit a flare into the crowd, place was smoking up. Crazy”
Needless to say, Circle Jerks weren’t returning to the stage. The cops were on hand and the place was eventually emptied. But what a night. The entire lineup were on fire and talking to a few punters afterwards, it seemed like it was exactly what they needed. A huge night in Sydney. If you weren’t there, you definitely missed out.
Gig Review by Duane James @duanejames666
Revisit our interview with Pennywise’s Fletcher Dragge chatting all about the tour, life post-covid and Circle Jerks appreciation here
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