Words and Photos by Patrick Gilrane
West Coast punk rockers Rancid paid a visit to the city of Brotherly Love this past week, bringing with them their friends Pennywise, Suicidal Tendencies & The English Beat. Originally scheduled as an outdoor show at the Mann Center, this gig was relocated indoors at the Franklin Music Hall (Electric Factory).
Rancid played a gig here in Jersey a few months back that was cut short due to weather (lightning), so I was rather stoked to see them return, and with a supporting cast of punk & ska bands going back 40 years I knew this would be a show to remember. One thing that always stands out at shows like this is the make-up of the crowd, and as expected it was a multi-generational affair with everything from veteran punks to future punks riding on their parents’ shoulders. The lights dimmed, and the first band up was The English Beat.
The English Beat go all the way back to 1978, blending elements of traditional ska with punk and new wave undertones. The English Beat are true pioneers of the two-tone movement.
The English beat had the crowd skanking right from the first song via frontman Dave Wakeling’s vocals and bands classic two-tone delivery. Listening and watching this band go through its set is like seeing musical history, with all the foundational elements of ska clearly represented. I don’t know about you, but I love hearing the dominant reggae influence in this music, and feel it represents one of the purist elements of the entire genre.
Focusing on its classic songs, The English Beat had the crowd skanking to “Save It for Later” and the crowd favorite, “Tenderness.” With a few other bands in the line-up, The English Beat played a relatively short set of about 35 minutes, really stirring up the crowd.
When Suicidal Tendencies took the stage, you could feel the energy bump up a few notches. The band seemed to feed off the crowd’s chants of ST, ST! As the first chords rang out frontman, Mike Muir raced to the edge of the stage with fist raised as the crowd surged forward. Watching this bands live show is a total spectacle (in a good way), with Muir and bandmates working at hyper-speed from one side of the stage to the other, including an all-out aerial and guitar assault by Ben Weinman. As the show went on Muir invited a few of the girls in the front on the stage, which resulted in a kind of stage invasion of sorts.
As their set went on, so did the flow of fans over the barrier; It wasn’t hard to see that ST fans go hard, very hard with the band responding by delivering a punishing set. As it was getting near the end of their set, Ben Weinman stepped from the stage to the barrier then set off into the crowd, playing while being held up by fans. This set was classic Suicidal Tendencies with screaming guitar solos, jumps and band members in the crowd. The band left the stage while the crowd chanted ST, ST, ST!
As always, I was really excited to see Pennywise again, and based on the crowd’s reaction, they were as well. One thing that always surprises me is how much great noise these guys make with three instrumentalists, Randy and Byron laying the foundation and Fletcher shredding the guitar. Pennywise hit all their classics tonight from “Bro Hymn” to “Fuck Authority” and all points in between. During their set frontman, Jim proclaimed that it was great to be back in Philly and that he was wearing a Philly inspired shirt he had picked up that day, lighting up the crowd. As the set moved on, so did the intensity, with a large circle pit going and crowd surfers flowing over the barrier it was clear that Jim Lindberg and bandmates weren’t fucking around. Pennywise worked through a killer set of hard, fast material, really pushing the crowd to extremes but not just with music. At several points during the show, Jim and fletcher had a bit of extended banter about a bunch of topics, most of which were about shunning mainstream society, and living life by your terms, almost to say “Fuck Authority”! Great set by Pennywise.
The guys from Rancid walked out onto a basic stage setup that included a Rancid banner hanging on the back of the stage and not much else, and launched right into “Roots Radicals.” Watching this band, you quickly realize that they don’t need any theatrical lighting or special effects and that this is banging, old school punk rock that is best served straight up and in your face. As the bass intro to “Journey to the end of the East Bay” rang out the crowd formed a large circle pit front and center and crowd surfers made their way over the barrier, taxing the security staff at the near-capacity venue. Rancid has always been one of my favorite punk bands, and are rooted in a musical history going back over 25 years with songs like “Ruby SoHo,” Fall Back down,” Nihilism” and what I consider to be one of the best punk albums ever published/written “And Out Come the Wolves”. With Lars and Tim sharing lead vocals and Brandon and Matt laying the musical foundation, Rancid is not only a band you need to see live, but one that IMHO set the standard for the entire punk genre. No surprises from Rancid tonight, just a great high energy affair as always!
In closing I’d like to thank Rancid, Pennywise, Suicidal Tendencies, and The English Beat for the years of great music, and the always professional staff at the Franklin Music Hall for keeping us all safe and sound.