It was back in 1994 when the San Diego based punk rock band Unwritten Law first set foot on a South Florida stage. Soon after the release of three low-key albums on a string of independent labels, the band went looking to spread its name to a broader, equally welcoming audience and quickly found it.
Despite the glory associated with their leap from just another struggling punk band to that of well-rounded musicians, Unwritten Law has not forgotten the vital jolt that they received on their first Florida tour date. “Florida gave us a boost in 1994,” said guitarist Steve Morris. “We love everyone here and we owe Florida lots of gratitude. It’s where we got our start.”
While touring in the mid 1990s, the band’s catchy pop-punk fell upon eager ears craving precisely that sound and won over hundreds of east coasters. Channeling this rare, powerful word-of-mouth buzz, the band jumped in the studio and found moderate success with a re-recording of Blue Room on the distinguished major label, Epic Records. From there, a 1998 self-titled release was snatched up by another major label, Interscope Records, whose considerable knowledge with promotions helped the band kindle enormous success with a homegrown feeling. So it is not a surprise that new tracks from their latest album, Elva (released in January 2002), have snagged airtime on MTV and alternative radio stations around the country.
Unwritten Law took the stage at Pompano Beach’s Millennium last Friday night and greeted the lively crowd with a warmth and liveliness not typically exhibited by today’s bands. The slew of 16-year-olds did not forget to return the favor, and as sweat began to drench the packed crowd, reminiscent thoughts of those rainy middle school mornings on stuffy school buses began to emerge. From the get-go it was obvious who made up the majority of Unwritten Law’s immediate fan base, as throngs of adolescent boys and girls opened their metal-filled mouths and loudly belted out every lyric.
Though on tour to promote Elva, the band didn’t hesitate to dip into older material, opening with the hit tracks Teenage Suicide and Sorry from their self-titled release. Although tracks from their two latest releases dominated the set list, fans of older albums were treated to nostalgic tracks such as Falling Down and CPK. The band even showed off their musical repertoire with a solid cover of The Clash’s Guns of Brixton.
As might be expected, the younger show openers Standstill and Sugarcult failed to energize the crowd in the same fashion as Unwritten Law. When the Santa Barbara-based Sugarcult performed songs like Stuck in America and How Does It Feel from their debut album Start Static, most of the crowd seemed to pick up on the band’s knack for making ironic jokes about drug abuse underneath their sugar-coated style. Sugarcult is sure to gain wide promotion for their new album with the 17 shows scheduled during their cross-country trek with Unwritten Law.
After exhausting their set list, Unwritten Law seemed worn out. It was as if Florida and its exhilarated fans had unleashed some sort of energy-draining power. “After we play here, we always have to take a week off,” said guitarist Rob Brewer. Fine, just as long as the band doesn’t need a prolonged vacation from churning out consistently fervent pop-punk records.