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Last night in Manhattan, four of the biggest buzz bands of 1996 came together for a show of epic rock proportions, the Summer Nationals Tour. Humanitarians, scholars and a guy proudly wearing a basketball jersey that said “Vaginaterian” packed out Terminal 5 on a humid Tuesday night. The bands of yesteryear were ready to show a rabid crowd that despite expanding waistlines and thinning hair, they can still rock and more importantly are still relevant, at least in the sense of supplying a punchy evening of pop punk.
Much to my dismay I missed the Vandals set, but luckily I was able to see all of Pennywise. For the past 20-plus years, Pennywise has been fucking authority and singing hymns to their bros. Pennywise is the epitome of bro-punk. Tonight the band was fast, tight and worked the crowd with relative ease. After watching the documentary The Other F Word, which focuses on singer Jim Lindberg’s struggle to be a parent and a member of Pennywise, it was pretty hard to still buy into the band’s punk aesthetic. It’s probably all the scenes of Lindberg dying his dome hair and facial hair before every show, or maybe him wallowing on a tour bus about how much he misses being back in his plush suburban home with his kids. Nevertheless, Lindberg and company were fired up and made sure to let the audience know by saying “Fuck!” or “Fuck yeah!” as much as possible in between songs. An interesting highlight of their set was guitarist and human juggernaut Fletcher Dragge bringing out Brian Baker of Minor Threat/Bad Religion to perform the Minor Threat song Minor Threat.
Next up were perennial southern California pop punk heroes, Bad Religion. Not only have they been around for over thirty years, but they also have had some very seminal punk rock guitar legends in their band. Brian Baker of Minor Threat and Greg Hetson of the Circle Jerks have been longtime members of the band, though recently Hetson got the boot under some murky circumstances and has been replaced by Mike Dimkich of The Cult (huh?!). The band was tight as ever and didn’t miss a beat despite the departure of Hetson. Their hour-long set consisted of material spanning their entire career, sadly though, I was the only one shouting for them to plays cuts from their breakout new wave album, Into The Unknown, which they seem to have suspiciously erased from their legacy. Leaving the crowd hungry for more, Bad Religion said their goodbyes and made way for headliners, The Offspring.
Tonight, The Offspring took a cue from many aging rock groups and decided to play their biggest album in its entirety—meaning they were all set to play their quadruple-platinum album Smash from start to finish. After one of the most insanely large drum risers I have ever seen was placed on stage, the band came out and launched into their set. The crowd went totally bonkers as a slightly rounder, spikey-haired Dexter Holland serenaded the crowd. Holland seemed completely unfazed about being in the news recently for missing payments on his third personal jet, and sang the hits like it was 1994. Joining the band on third guitar, so Holland could focus on vocal duties, was Todd Morse of H2O. Morse was placed next to the drummer on that gargantuan riser and did most of the heavy lifting while letting the rest of the band revel in the spotlight. Don’t worry Todd, we didn’t forget you. Upon completing Smash, the band dove into their catalog of other hits for awhile. And the fellow in the “Vaginaterian” shirt left that night a very happy man.
Photos by Daniel Kelley and Jenny Messer