Lessons from the Pennywise mosh pit
by Allen Sanford
Trust me. As the owner of Saint Rocke, the idea of having a wrecking crew of South Bay local surfers, skaters, and fellow lovers of punk moshing in our venue to Pennywise was initially not very appealing. Liability issues, aggressive tendencies, emotions running high – all of these concerns can turn disastrous instantly if the overall energy of the participants isn’t generally positive. Knowing that, as I was approached about hosting the Surfrider Charity event at Saint Rocke, I begrudgingly agreed, being that the bigger incentive of raising money to protect our beaches outweighed the risk.
During the next few weeks though, I secretly used my time with Jim, Fletcher, and the band to slowly weave my best arguments as to why a circle pit of moshers during an upscale Surfrider event might wreak havoc on the evening: how would we prevent women from getting pushed, glasses from breaking, and all of the other hundred things that could potentially go wrong? But the more I tried, the stronger the opposition became, until Fletcher finally crashed into my broken train of thought and declared: “Authentic. Pennywise is punk rock, Allen. Hermosa is punk rock, Allen. We’re authentic, and we’ll always be that way, and our shows and fans are part of that. Don’t try and change that.”
On November 15, Pennywise raised $55,000 at a sold out Saint Rocke show to a crowd of 250-plus people inside, and a worldwide audience who watched the broadcast live online at IROCKE.com. Attendees had dinner with the band, the opportunity to bid on amazing auction items provided by local and regional sponsors, and yes, the mosh pit to enjoy. Ninety minutes of what was one of the best Pennywise performances I’ve ever seen brought an amazing energy to the room, and hostility and aggressiveness were replaced with community and brotherhood. I might be crazy, but by the time the encore (“Bro Hymn”) came on, my adrenaline level had reached such a level that for a single second, I pondered joining the pit myself.
I drove home that night thinking that Hermosa Beach could learn something from those fans.
In the political and municipal realm, we all have divergent and passionate opinions, different business interests, and often contradictory motivations – similar to the different walks of life that Pennywise fans are from as they come together at shows. And I believe that, like this proverbial mosh pit, it’s healthy to engage in rigorous activity around this (in this case, lively discussion, discourse, and criticism if necessary).
My hope is that the overall dynamic of our city, and the various disparate groups, improves – so that when someone gets knocked down or loses their step, those engaged remember that we all share Hermosa Beach, the authentic, sleepy surf community that fueled the birth of Pennywise. If you care about the city, prove it. Volunteer, help create new programs, pick your neighbor up when they are down. For those of you in the community that don’t (you know who I’m talking about): stop writing nasty letters in local papers about the same redundant topics, have some respect for our city leaders who donate their valuable time, and try something new: add some positivity to our community circle.
Jim, Fletcher, and the rest of Pennywise: thank you for teaching me something that only punk rock could. Thank you to Surfrider for protecting our beaches, Jani Lange for your usual outstanding leadership, Katie and the Saint Rocke staff, and all the epic sponsors for their participation.