As my eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness, I can barely make out the curve of a body moving in front of me. The smell of salt and hops linger in the air as a bead of sweat drips down the back of my leg. A light flashes and my heart begins to race, beating faster and faster.
The sound of screeching feedback breaks the near silence. A pulse of flesh and sound pulls me forward. The crunch of the first chord resonates through the air vibrating my skin. The hair on my arms stands on end. As my eyes finally adjust to the light, I can see four silhouettes creep on stage, a gold Les Paul strapped to the chest of the first. A single figure bounds to the front of the stage, gingerly embracing the microphone. His lips begin quiver as 350 of his closest friends (at least for the night) respond in unison. And that was just the start.
This is how I remember the start of one of the musical best performances I’ve experienced in a long time. The band that elicited that feeling was the Menzingers from Scranton, Pennsylvania. If you care about underground rock and roll, you’ve heard of the Menzingers by now. They took the punk world by storm in 2012 with the release of their album On the Impossible Past. The album was voted record of the year by both Punk News and Absolute Punk. Before this record, such a feat seemed, well, impossible.
I call the Menzingers rock and roll because I’m really not sure how to classify them any further. An argument could be made for punk, pop-punk, folk rock, or even emo. But they are simultaneously all of these things and none of them. This isn’t to say that the Menzingers sound is all that complicated. It isn’t. Don’t take that an insult. The Menzingers employ a classic brand of songwriting that mixes insanely catchy vocals, with crunching guitars, and a raw energy that rarely translates to a recording.
Back to the show. Due to the perpetual documentation device known as the internet, I realize some of the statements I made about that night are factually incorrect. But frankly, the facts don’t matter. Even after seeing video evidence to the contrary, I still feel this way about the concert. And in the end, the feeling is always more important than the facts.
I have one lucid memory of this concert that cannot corroborated by the evidence. As a song began, one of the band’s singer’s stepped to the the microphone to begin singing. Before he could utter a syllable, the whole crowd sang back to him in unison. Through the powers of the internet, I’ve deduced that singer in question was Greg Barnett.
What is particularly important about event was Greg’s reaction to the crowd’s enthusiasm. He was so overwhelmed, overjoyed that he had to step away from the microphone for a few seconds to regain his composure. This was not a “let’s focus on the crowd singing to make them feel like a part of the performance” kind of thing. This was a performer being so shocked by the passion and intensity of a crowd’s reaction to his art that he couldn’t control his emotional reaction. If you don’t think this is a good thing, you will probably not like this band or it’s performances. If you do like this kind of thing, it becomes virtually impossible to dislike the Menzingers.
I mentioned that this event is not corroborated by video evidence. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The piece of evidence to which I'm referring, a video which I will post below, only includes the first 2/3 of the Menzingers’ set. At this point, our faithful videographer was asked by a member of the Menzingers’ entourage to cease and desist his recording. The band was about to play a new song from their album Rented World that had not yet been released. The videographer obliged.
Writing this now almost 4 months after the fact, it’s clear that I’ve gotten some of the facts wrong. So here is what I know to be true. On a Monday night and early February, the Menzingers played a concert in San Francisco. The venue was Bottom of the Hill, one of my favorites in the city. A sellout crowd was in attendance.
The band spent about an hour on stage entertaining and interacting with an passionate and engaged crowd. They played 18 songs. Many were from 2012’s hit On the Impossible Past, but the hits from each of their previous albums were also included. They closed the show with a cover of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” by the Smashing Pumpkins and the crowd went nuts. More accurately, the crowd was going nuts for the entirety of the performance and continued to do so until the lights turned on. At the very least, the crowd was enthusiastic enough to surprise members of the band.
But as I said before the facts don’t matter. A concert is about the experience. Because of the quality of the bands performance and the energy of the audience, this was one of the best shows I’ve been to in a long, long time. The Menzingers are currently on tour in support of the their new album Rented World. With any luck, I will see them twice on this tour. First here it San Francisco, then in Richmond, VA. What can I say, I’m a world traveler.
Now go support the Apex hoodie over on Kickstarter... then grab tickets to one of the better shows you’ll ever see... You know, if you like fun.