Today will be the 4th time I’ve seen the punk rock band Pennywise perform live, but this time round I have a different, almost anxious sort of anticipation.
Back in 2009, original singer Jim Lindberg decided to quit the band for family reasons. He went on to adapt his book ‘Punk Rock Dad‘ into a documentary, ‘The Other F Word‘, which made his decision appear fairly legitimate. I was studying in a university library at the time when i took a break, went to their website and read the news – i was actually devastated. They had been a band with a source of lyrics which resonated deep within me and to see them brake up felt almost like betrayal. As time went by, the idea of Pennywise recruiting a new singer didn’t sit well with me – nevertheless not long after they announced Zoli Téglás would become a fully fledged member. Despite the awkward feeling i had, i was also surprised by a thought I had a couple years previous. I actually saw Zoli’s band Ignite play in Perth and was absolutely blown away; he was spot on that night and i turned to my friend and said that if there was another punk rock vocalist that could take Jim’s position (as my favourite singer/songwriter) it would be Zoli. So… even though i was not very optimistic about the new arrangement, there was definitely an air of excitement for me.
Fast forward a couple years and i saw the new Pennywise at the Soundwave festival. They opened with ‘Every Single Day’, a personal favourite of mine, and from that moment on i knew Zoli was right. In 2012 they released the album All or Nothing, which kicked some major energized ass. The only negative thing i could say in regards to that album is the lack of lyrical diversity, but it was jammed packed with the sort of pace and positive attitude which could get a depressive jumping around with optimism. After getting over the fact that the lyrical content was narrow, it was clear to see the album did what it did very well and I regularly find myself listening to it.
This new and invigorated band was set to tour Australia for a second time last year to support the new album, so I brought my ticket in preparation but Zoli had a somewhat mysterious and serious back injury, collapsing on stage in Germany. This unfortunate event postponed the Australian tour which would never eventuate for poor Zoli, but has now been reincarnated as the 25th anniversary tour and reunion with original vocalist Jim. I would have never thought in a million years I would have some negative vibes for Jimmy to rejoin PW, but I did.
So, where is Zoli? This is where things take a turn for the worst in my opinion. After Zoli’s exodus, it seems like they have tried to erase all traces of his existence. The pennywisdom.com website promptly had all news articles deleted and all advertising for ‘All or Nothing’ vanished, with only a single post celebrating Jim’s triumphant return. Still to this day, there has been no post or official word, although I have read a couple online interview articles where Fletcher (guitarist) has past a few unusual comments. Before the split, he said “Zoli’s fit in the band is really positive“. Now Jim is back, he says “I would look over on stage at Zoli singing songs that Jim wrote and thinking this isn’t right“. These comments show Fletcher has lied (effectively to the fans – through the interviews) about Zoli and the situation in general – and Pennywise to me, in part, stands for truth. After numerous heart filled performances around the world, his input with the new album and his genuine positive attitude, Pennywise has now seemingly used and abused him. Zoli, if you’re out there, we want to hear that you are doing OK and that Ignite may continue to create positive, thought provoking music in the future!
Out of the millions of bands out there, I thought PW would have been at the forefront of truly believing that all the events in the past shape you into who you are (be it a single person or a band). My disbelief continued after reading this interview with Lindberg about the reunion and future of Pennywise. After a solid start, he comes out with “them singing “Bro Hymn” without Jim seemed ridiculous to me”. I’m not even getting into the fact he is referring to himself in 3rd person, but how self centered is that statement considering in the same interview he is talking about community and unity? Furthermore his new band The Black Pacific (which is now on an indefinite hiatus) has a song on their debut album titled ‘Kill Your Idols’, however it seems like he wants himself on a pedestal! Then there is the fact of the actual writer of the song in question is also no longer in the band (due to much more serious nature of committing suicide in 1996). How can he say the remaining members can’t sing that song with out him (Jim) when he didn’t even write it? Yes, it is a personal song to him, but its also just as personal for the rest of the band members, not to mention the importance and significance for the fans. Plus the band has consistently said in the past that they keep playing to keep Jason’s (Jason Matthew Thirsk – former bassist & songwriter) spirit alive.
He also goes on to say, when questioned about what he thought of the new album ‘All or Nothing’, that “it was strange to have somebody else taking my place. To me, I think that it would have been a better thing if they would have just formed another band with Zoli (Téglás) singing”. First off, it wasn’t your place at that time, you quit the band. Then to say the remaining members should continue playing under another name is ludicrous. When Jason left the band, why didn’t you and the remaining members use another name? Why did you keep singing his songs? The answer to that is the exact same answer to why the rest of the band continued without you as Pennywise. They continued because the lyrical content, be it songs written by Jason Matthew Thirst or Jim Lindberg, are bigger than the people themselves.
I want to state that Pennywise have been my favourite band for many, many years (~15). Anyone who knows me would attest to this. I even have some related tattoos (the words Try, Nothing to Lose & Every Single Day). To me, these obviously emotional words (in this post, and in ink) reflect the importance that they’ve been to my life over the years (i certainly wouldn’t feel this way with most other bands, that’s for sure). I’m not sure why i am writing this or even who its intended for, it’s simply something i wanted to get off my chest. Even though there is some harsh views within, I won’t stop believing in the songs/words and hope that some clarity to the issues arise in the future. Disappointment has probably driven me to these thoughts – I mean, even for a person who doesn’t like to idolise, its hard not to at all after all these years of inspiration. I said earlier that Jim leaving felt like a betrayal… well i feel like i am doing the same as I’m writing this! I guess the moral of the story is to try resist idolising people because they are just that – and people make mistakes and do things out of character all the time. Sure, agree with other opinions, but only idolise your own.