Word to the wise
Five things you didn’t know about Pennywise
By Chris Jay 03/07/2013
Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary as a band, Hermosa Beach punk outfit Pennywise will be coming to Ventura for the umpteenth time, but thankfully it will be with original singer Jim Lindberg, who is back with the band after a three-year absence. Despite the band’s passionate fan base, it remains misunderstood and underappreciated by many critics. Here are five things that prove there’s a lot more than meets the eye with longtime ambassadors of Southern California skate punk.
It’s all in the name
The band’s undoubtedly cool name is actually taken from the literary world. Pennywise is the chief monster that takes demented clown form in the Stephen King classic It. The band even paid tribute to the monster in a self-titled song on the self-titled debut record in 1991, which remains a fan favorite.
In the mid-’90s, long before Jackass, the band’s first video of concert footage and behind-the-scenes shenanigans, Home Movies, was an immensely popular underground release. The endless drinking, vomiting and pranks the band filmed, most including, or instigated by burly guitarist Fletcher Dragge, was required viewing for teenage boys across America. Tame by today’s standards, it was still an unheralded blueprint on the gross-out, reality prank comedy format that would go on to make millions.
Pennywise’s baseball cap-clad lead singer Jim Lindberg is a UCLA graduate who authored his first book, Punk Rock Dad, in 2007. The book, which dealt with Lindberg’s dual life of being a father to three young daughters but also being the singer of an anti-establishment punk band, was well-received. It was also the inspiration for the excellent documentary The Other F Word, which followed the life of several rock and roll dads, including Lindberg. His most subversive work, however, has to be tricking thousands of skaters into learning about and singing along to the philosophies of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, which he touches upon in his lyrics in between the occasional F bomb.
The “Amazing Grace” of punk rock
Pennywise is the author of the punk anthem “Bro Hymn.” For the uninitiated, the song is the band’s signature tune, played at the end of every show while audience members are encouraged to rush the stage past security and sing along to the song’s not-so-complicated chorus of “woo, oh, oh, oh . . . woo, oh, woo, oh, oh.” It’s an ode to brotherhood among friends, and a tribute to those that have passed away. It’s also goose bump-inducing when performed live, especially when it’s dedicated to the band’s original bassist, Jason Thirsk, who helped write the song and who committed suicide after battling alcoholism and depression. On a less serious note, the song has even been adopted as a sports anthem, most notably by the Anaheim Ducks, who had the band perform it live when they won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
The pride of Pierpont
In the late 1990s, Pennywise was awarded the key to the Ventura beach neighborhood of Pierpont for the proliferation of its logo on the back windows of trucks and also for helping area tattoo shops survive the tough economic climate. A small parade marched down Seaward Avenue, led by a choir of hand-holding children who sang the Pennywise classic, “Fuck Authority.” Attendees celebrated with a circle pit on the beach that saw mothers with babes in arms participating. Sadly, no footage exists of this joyous occasion but for those who were there, it’s often referred to as one of the most inspiring moments of their lives. OK, maybe that didn’t happen. But we can dream, can’t we?
Pennywise will perform at the Ventura Theater on Friday March 8. For more information visit www.venturatheater.net.