Author and Photographer: Jonathan Stark (Stark Raving Mad Photography LLC.)
This was big. To photograph and attend one of my all-time favorite bands, Rancid, performing live in Denver- it was a photography bucket list cross off. Well, in part. I did not make it through the whole show thanks to a miscommunication and an impatient security guard…. more on that later.
Back in the early 90’s Rancid was a constant presence on our car radios and at parties. My love of the guys and their sound continues today. The rich history of the members is ingrained in the world of punk. From Operation Ivy to The Transplants, from their support and cooperative efforts with The Interrupters and others, the legacy continues. Thank you so much for that last one guys. The Interrupters are a refreshing kick in the pantaloons to the modern generic grits and oatmeal being served with sparkles to the masses. Back on track. Rancid’s relevance is not confined to the past. As timeless punk rockers and influencers through the last three decades, they are still putting out albums and touring. Their last album, “Trouble Maker” was a spectacular present like discovering a wad of cash in an old jacket pocket, or hearing that there’s a new The Matrix film being made.
On to the show… late as usual, I picked up my tickets and passes and headed through the door. Epitaph Records has been awesome to work with. They are one of the easiest, kindest and most responsive labels. I had the same set up as when I shot Bad Religion, so I headed in and got to the photo pit in time to shoot Pennywise. Ah, Pennywise, another hallmark of the punk community.
I’ll be blunt, they put on an awesome performance. Everyone loved them and they sounded just like the Pennywise I remembered. I’ve got to catch up on their discography. The venue was packed and there was no swelling after the set. The audience was there to see both Pennywise and Rancid. Jim Lindberg worked the microphone as the consummate pro, and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy playing to the crowd. The highlight was of course the final song, “Bro Hymn.” It was almost surreal to hear them performing the song with a bunch of what I can only presume were friends on stage.
Pennywise Photo Slideshow Below!
Rancid was up next and holy crap did they absolutely destroy, shatter and rebuild the club. From the opening song until I got kicked out by staff, it was a beautiful experience. Even while waiting outside for my friend (who was not as unfortunate as me), I tapped along and sung the songs. I was content to have seen what I saw but aggravated that I was booted out. Side note, the staff is excellent, and I was in the wrong, although I had no idea at the time. A conversation with the security manager afterwards cleared everything up, so I’ve got to suck it up buttercup.
Back to the show, Tim was just as outstanding as ever. He was animated and engaging with his unmistakable signature sound, with his seasoned guitar and head tattoo, which are also unmistakable. You know the last time a saw a man treasure a guitar like that it was in the hands of Willie Nelson. Then there was Matt with his gruff vocals and precise string plucking. …or is it picking? He is a stalwart fixture of the punk community. But if Matt is a stalwart, Lars is a pillar, an Oxford league stud of punkdome. The amazing thing is that each of these guys has meant so much to so many as one band and individually, yet they each have a unique sound and contribution. Then there’s Branden Steineckert who joined up in 2006 or so, coming from drumming in The Used. He was a blast to watch perform and for over a decade has melded with the others like plastic worms left in a tackle box on a hot Tennessee day.
To me Rancid is an organism unto itself. Tim, Lars, Matt and Branden all play a vital role to the survival of this animal. In all fairness, Tim, Matt, and a bit later- Lars were all there in the beginning. I wonder how fortunate they all must feel to still be able to do what I imagine is their passion, with one band over the decades. I think it’s a just inference given their stage performance that evening. I’ve seen Rancid over the years and they still do just as triumphant of a job today as twenty years ago. With enthusiasm they played all the tracks we love and with equaled exuberance the audience reciprocated the love by becoming part of that living animal for the duration of the set, singing along and becoming absorbed into the whole.
Rancid and Pennywise are a joy to see play live. I hope they both keep at it for years to come, to share their sound with current and future fans and to keep influencing and encouraging the sprouts of future bands. And keep your eyes pealed and fingers crossed for a new Rancid album.
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