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PENNYWISE // Fletcher Dragge – “This Music Scene Will Not Allow You To Become Some Grumpy Old Man”

In a matter of days, the merriment of Good Things Festival will be upon us, with an eclectic and electrifying lineup of punk, rock, and metal acts from around the globe and at home set to descend on Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

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Alongside the likes of Fall Out Boy, Limp Bizkit, Devo and many more, American punk icons Pennywise will also be ready to ramp up the party vibes – and guitarist and backing vocalist Fletcher Dragge will be making good use of the long flight to Australia to arrive in tip top form, with the prolific axe-man currently nursing a bad back.

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“At this point, being 6’6” and 300 pounds with broken knees and broken backs – flying coach is not an option for 15 hours,” Dragge shares with “So, it’ll be business class, and that’s a good thing. It means I can lay down, which will prevent my back from breaking or killing me on the actual flight. I’ll probably spend the flight sleeping and eating whatever they give me and being prone and letting my back rest. So, it’s going to be very uneventful, but I will get there in one piece and hopefully be able to walk!”

Returning to Australia in 2023 after gifting some beautiful chaos in 2022, touring down under with fellow L.A. punks Circle Jerks, the allure of the Aussies for Dragge and Co. covers many bases, from some cultural familiarity to more personal connections, as Dragge explains. 

“We’ve always said it’s our favorite place to tour in the world,” says Dragge. “It’s like California in the 70s and 80s. California has gotten pretty lame, it’s been inundated with a lot of people from other states, we call ’em transplants – and that’s totally cool as long as you get the good ones. But we get some bad ones here and the culture’s changing because, as you know with surf towns in Australia, it’s a very friendly kind of a small town vibe. And even a city like Melbourne, that’s a huge city, but it’s got a small town feel to it. I bet it’s obviously changed as well over the years, in the last 20 years everywhere’s changed. But it still reminds us of the old days of California. The vibe of the people are just nicer in Australia.”

“My wife’s Australian too,” Dragge continues. “I married an Aussie like three years ago and she’s fucking awesome. She’s from Melbourne, and obviously I’ll be moving down there, that’s where we’re going to end up retiring. When we go, we hang out and go to Cherry Bar, hang with our friends…it’s just a different vibe. It’s really cool. And the way that you guys party in Australia is next level, and you also know how to have a good time at shows. The shows over there are undoubtedly some of the craziest shows we’ve played in the world. It kind of reminds me of Spain or Chile or something where the crowd’s just turned up a little bit extra. Everybody likes to have a couple cold beers and get rowdy, and I’m sure we’ve made a couple promoters mad and a couple of club owners mad over the years with our performances – but it’s all the Aussie fans fault because they go hard.”

The way that you guys party in Australia is next level, and you also know how to have a good time at shows. The shows over there are undoubtedly some of the craziest shows we’ve played in the world … everybody likes to have a couple cold beers and get rowdy, and I’m sure we’ve made a couple promoters mad and a couple of club owners mad over the years with our performances – but it’s all the Aussie fans fault because they go hard.
[ Fletcher Dragge – Pennywise ]

With Pennywise also locked in to perform four headline sideshows alongside their Good Things appearances, with Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Central Coast and Torquay all set to offer fans a chance to soak in some extra Pennywise goodness, the discussions surrounding setlists and potential non-negotiables haven’t gotten any easier in the decades that the band have existed – but the group’s recent performances have also helped to expand their setlist horizons.

“They’re always difficult” says Dragge of the band’s setlist deliberations. “It’s hard to come up with a setlist. But yes, there are some non-negotiables. Something like Bro Hymn or Fuck Authority or Society is always going to make the cut. We just played two nights on a cruise on the Salty Dog Cruise with Flogging Molly, we just got home the other day from that and it was really cool. But we really mixed up the set, and we have a lot to choose from right now because we’ve been playing a lot of album shows. And so we actually have a really good selection of songs that we actually know how to play right now, which is going to make it really fun.”

“We’ll definitely switch up the club shows from the festival shows in case anybody’s a repeat customer for one thing. And secondly, it’s very different vibes playing a small club where people are up close and personal versus a giant festival. That’ll kind of dictate the whole thing. But it’s hard. At this point we get along pretty good making the set list. There’s a little arguing, but yeah, it’s not the end of the world. I think we’ve got about 140 or 50 songs now, so it’s kind of a lot. But there’ll be some obscure ones and then some of the, what we call, punk rock hits.”

A band who themselves helped to open the punk rock floodgates to an entire generation, forming in the late 80s and releasing their self-titled debut album in 1991, Pennywise have carved a formidable legacy along the way, classed as one of the most influential punk bands of all time and still thriving in 2023, with a slew of hit albums and relentless touring across the planet readily in their wake. And for Dragge, the secret sauce to longevity transcends the global successes and high profile acclaim. 

“First of all, I love the music,” says Dragge. “I always have. Punk rock was where I landed. You give me Devo, you give me Foghat, you give me Kiss, you give me Queen. And at the end of the day, my brain and my body physically was like: this is what I like. I had the physical reaction to bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag, and that’s where I want to go no matter what I listen to. If I’m listening to old school rap or I’m listening to Pantera or whatever, if I put on a Minor Threat record or a Circle Jerks record, I’m like: okay, this is home. My nature is just punk rock. And being able to write songs fulfills me emotionally, and being able to play live definitely is my favourite thing because I thrive off of the chaos of a live show.”

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“I feed off the energy of the crowd, the more energy the crowd has, the more energy I have,” Dragge continues. “I really look forward to going on tour because it’s like a vacation for me. It’s like it’s not a job. It’s the best gift I could have ever received. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m pretty happy.”

Equally happy are the faces of fans continuously lining up to witness Pennywise in a live setting. And noticeably, the multi-generational pull of a band like Pennywise has seen the DIY spirit beating at the band’s core defy the odds of the music industry and capture ongoing adoration – and Dragge is certainly not one to gatekeep new fans finding them after all this time. 

“I think what’s happened is: it’s gotten harder to get a record out,” says Dragge. “There’s labels, but it’s not as easy to get a record deal. And you have to really push yourself and get back to the DIY approach. There’s less options for punk rock – or it’s harder to find.”

“So, I think what is, kids get into punk rock now and they get diverted immediately to Green Day or The Offspring or a bigger band, and then you put on the Green Day radio station and then Pennywise is going to pop up. Eventually they come to us. So people who are young and discovering punk rock, they’re going to wind up hearing about Pennywise, whether they like us or not. That’s their choice. But I think a lot of the traffic is just getting diverted.”

“And then you see parents that are 40 years old with their 18 year old kids in the pit in the front row,” Dragge continues. “Or you see 50 year old parents with 12 year olds in the front row. We’re seeing it more and more. It’s crazy. I’ve seen a dad with his kid who’s 25 with his kid that’s like five, like you said, multi-generational, and you’re just like: fuck, this is crazy. There’s three generations of this family here. And they all grew up listening to Pennywise. The dad started and then the kid, the first time he ever heard you was in the womb.”

“Some mom just told me the other day that her kid’s favorite song, every day on the way to school he wants to hear Fuck Authority. My nephews are six, and they just go berserk on that song. And it’s really awesome because I mean, it keeps me young. I already behave like I’m 16 years old anyways. But “who wants to grow up” is what I always say. Being on the road, it’s like every day’s a Friday, like a permanent vacation. Every day’s a weekend, it’s a party. And then you surround yourself with people and you wind up hanging out, partying with a 50 year old or a 29 year old, whatever. And it’s like: you don’t get old. This music scene will not allow you to become some grumpy old man. You have to keep your youth about you in some way. It’s pretty awesome to see that We totally couldn’t be more appreciative.”

Catch Pennywise this December for Good Things Festival and some headline sideshows, more info below!

Friday, December 1 // Flemington Racecourse // Melbourne
Saturday, December 2 // Centennial Park // Sydney
Sunday, December 3 // Showgrounds // Brisbane (Sold Out)

Tuesday, December 5 // The Tivoli // Brisbane
Wednesday, December 6 // Coolangatta Hotel // Gold Coast
Friday, December 8 // Drifters Wharf // Central Coast
Saturday 9 December // Torquay Hotel // Torquay (Sold Out)

Tickets available here.

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