The Electric Ballroom in the heart of Camden Town was the setting for what was sure to be one of the gigs of the year. The Menzingers were in town with The Smith Street Band and The Holy Mess supporting them, I doubt you will find many stronger line ups this year.
After a mad dash across London I made it to the Electric Ballroom just in time to see The Holy Mess. I was incredibly excited to see this Philadelphian three piece live after checking out their new album Comfort In The Discord (I reviewed it here).They definitely did not disappoint. These three punks took to the stage and burned through a set list featuring songs from all three of their albums. I’m a big fan of bands who share vocal duties and The Holy Mess are really great at this. Singing at the top of the lungs and playing excellently at a great speed you can tell The Holy Mess really love what they do. The passion and energy they put into their set really endeared themselves to the Camden crowd and won them over many new fans. I am really looking forward to seeing them again.
Up next, all the way from Melbourne was the incredibly popular Smith Street Band. I suspected a decent sized portion of the crowd in attendance tonight were there especially to see these four Aussie lads such is their popularity. This would be my third time seeing them this year having already seen them support Restorations at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston and headline at Our Black Heart just one minute down the road from the Ballroom and I was interested to see what their show would be like on a much bigger stage. In all honesty I missed the feeling of intimacy you get at a smaller venue because of the lack of barriers. You feel more like part of the band when you can get up close and personal with a band and sing their songs back to them. And singing songs back to the band is the name of the game at a Smith Street Band gig. Wil Wagner is a master at writing incredibly catchy and honest songs that you can relate to. Staples of their set such as Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams, Sigourney Weaver and closer Young Drunk went down a treat as did new song Surrender from the upcoming album Throw Me In The River (which you can pre-order here). The song that stood out most for me tonight was When I Was A Boy I Thought I Was A Fish. I don’t know what it was that song really captured me and gave me a new found love for it. Despite the barrier The Smith Street Band were absolutely brilliant, I wasn’t a big fan of the barrier but at a bigger venue that meant that there were much more people to sing along with the band and make it an even bigger party. The Smith Street Band are quickly becoming one of my all time favourite bands, I think that should relocate to England permanently so I can see them all the time.
During The Smith Street Bands set front man Wil graciously thanked everyone for being there and always supporting the band. Then he briefly spoke about the forty five minutes or so spent on stage was the only time in the day when he felt right. Hearing a hero of mine say that was quite a big deal for me, as someone who has had a difficult time of things lately being at gigs and seeing my favourite bands play live is one of the few times in life these days when I feel completely right. It was reassuring to hear that it’s not just me who feel like this. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, going to a gig and screaming along to a song is the best kind of therapy.
After releasing another album of the year contender in Rented World in April The Menzingers are having another amazing year. Having been lucky enough to attend their album release show at the tiny Old Blue Last I was again interested to see The Menzingers on a big stage. Unsurprisingly they were excellent. The Menzingers represent a new breed of punk rock band. They play with all the aggression, honesty and passion you would expect from a punk band but they also accompany that with some excellent musicianship. I think this is why they are so popular, they have huge crossover appeal. As with all the great punk bands, they play every gig like it’s their last. Guitarist Tom May in particular was a ball of energy on stage, bouncing around everywhere never slowing down. Like the two bands before them you could see how much they loved being on stage and playing music and the Electric Ballroom crowd really loved them. Everyone in the crowd knew the words to every song they played whether it was from their debut A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology, their breakthrough album On The Impossible Past or Rented World. I always think the stars of a Menzingers gig aren’t just the band but the crowd themselves. Their songs manage to unite a crowd of strangers that few bands have the ability to do. Whoever you happened to be standing next to became your new best friend during the set as you sang along with Tom and co-vocalist Greg Barnett. It’s very hard to pick a highlight from the set as every song sounded amazing but Casey and Burn After Writing in particular stood out. The opening chords of Burn After Writing are brilliant as an intro and the song is a nice slow builder before launching into a huge chorus that the crowd adored singing along to.
This gig was unbelievably good. Three of the best bands around who were at the top of their game. This was my fifth time seeing The Menzingers live and its been an absolute honour seeing them go from playing smaller gigs at places like The Old Blue Last, The Borderline and The Underworld to playing to 1000 plus people at the Electric Ballroom. I expect the next time they tour they will be playing some even bigger venues such is their growing popularity.
Check out The Holy Mess here: https://fucktheholymess.bandcamp.com/
Check out The Smith Street Band here: https://thesmithstreetband.bandcamp.com/
Check out The Menzingers here: https://www.facebook.com/themenzingers
Now listening to The Corner by Cory Branan