Saturday, 30 January 2016

Gig Review: The Barnett Brothers at The Cricketers 22/1/16 & The Lexington 23/1/16

Last week Emma and I went to two Barnett brothers gigs; the first being at The Cricketers in Kingston and the second being at The Lexington in London. For those who don't know, the Barnett brothers are Greg Barnett from The Menzingers and Bobby Barnett from Captain We're Sinking. Last October at The Fest the idea was pitched for them to come over to England for a bit of a vacation and to play some solo acoustic shows. Emma and I both had the time booked off work for my birthday and luckily this coincided with the tour so we decided to go to two shows. I thought it might make interesting reading for us to each review a show and then combine them into a single blog post that compares and contrasts the shows. Emma reviewed the Cricketers show (italics) and I did the Lexington gig.


Dave House is one of those names that I’ve heard of but, for one reason or another, never actually listened to before – and no I’m not thinking of Dave Hause. He said himself that he has been off the radar for a while – and incidentally had to re-learn his old songs for the show – whilst he’s been working on some new material under his new guise, Permanent Record. But, being from Kingston and having released his last album (in 2009) on Banquet Records, it was no surprise that much of the crowd knew Dave and his music. Even if I didn’t necessarily know the songs it was great to hear everyone else singing along with such enthusiasm. Dave joked that all of his songs are either about ‘the kids of today’ or ‘water’, of which he had several examples of each! His enthusiastic performance, complete with foot stomping that shook the small stage, was excellent and exactly what was needed to kick off the night. Dave has certainly earned himself a new fan and I’ll be checking out whatever he does next.

Support at The Lexington came from Brightr. I wasn't aware of Brightr until that show but I've since learned that he plays acoustic pop punk songs. When we walked into the Lexington we looked towards the stage and noticed a stool on the stage, which was surprisingly used by Brightr and which I felt took away from his stage presence. That being said he had some fantastic songs with some very powerful messages behind them. Brightr is definitely a man to look out for. We had decided to hang out towards the back of the Lexington tonight to watch the gig. This had some good and bad points, the good being a fantastic view and the bad being people at the back seemingly wanted to just have a chat rather than watch the artists they had paid to see. I always find people who spend the majority of a gig talking quite annoying and think it's quite disrespectful to whoever is playing. 


I must admit that I’ve not really listened to as much Captain We’re Sinking as a punk rock fan perhaps should have. I certainly didn’t know that the band featured the brother of Greg Barnett – something that apparently a lot of people didn’t know (much to Bobby and Greg’s amusement). I was also very surprised to discover that the band has never actually made it over to the UK to play shows before – maybe that’s one reason why I wasn’t too familiar with them! Although he has some of his own solo material, Bobby’s set mostly consisted of Captain We’re Sinking songs. Something I imagine is just what fans wanted to hear really! He was clearly very grateful to have the chance to play in the UK and shared stories between songs, including one in which he and Greg, as 5 and 6 year olds, tried to find the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a sewer. The main thing that struck me about Bobby’s performance was what a great voice he has, which isn’t really something you often think to comment on in the world of punk rock. In particular I really loved his passionate performance of ‘Brother,’ which, although not strictly about just Greg (it’s more about friends being like brothers), felt pretty fitting.
Up next was the first of the Barnett Brothers – Bobby. The Captain We're Sinking front man was making his first visit to the UK ever (which I found surprising as I thought that Captain We're Sinking would have made the journey from Philadelphia at some point). I've always been impressed with Bobby's voice whenever I've heard it on record but live it's something else! It's incredibly powerful and the emotion is amazing. He mentioned that he had brought seventy-five copies of his solo album with him on the tour but had already sold out so would be playing a set consisting of only Captain We're Sinking songs for the evening. Classics such as Brother, More Tequila Less Joe and my personal favourite Crushed By Milwaukee's Best all got played to fantastic reactions. To make acoustic shows truly memorable the crowd needs to be involved and happily there were enough people in the crowd who knew Bobby's songs to sing along. Bobby was great, I'm hoping the love shown to him on this tour will encourage him to bring Captain We're Sinking over to the UK very soon.


At this point I should probably mention that The Menzingers are almost definitely my favourite punk band in the world. I’m a huge fan of the band and, I must admit, a big fan of Greg in particular. I love Tom May too but there is just something about Greg’s songs that connect with me better than most of Tom’s do (sorry Tom!). Plus his voice is one of my favourites in punk rock. I was ridiculously excited when I found out that Greg would be venturing across the pond to play some solo acoustic shows and I can’t deny that I am the main reason we ended up going to two nights of the tour in a row (though it was partly because it coincided with Colin’s birthday too). It was a little odd at first for Greg to be up on stage without the rest of the guys, as well as playing stripped back versions of The Menzingers’ songs rather than the loud, fast tunes we are used to. He started his set with Gates and it wasn’t long before the crowd was singing along, much the same as for a full band electric show, although without any stage diving! It was great to hear Greg talking in between songs and interacting with the Cricketers’ crowd, telling us how the Barnett brothers tour idea came about – Greg just wanted a holiday! Colin and I both agreed that he spoke a lot more than at a typical Menzingers show, which was no bad thing. Something I love about Greg is how genuinely happy he seems to be when performing, particularly when a sing-a-long moment happens with the crowd. It was awesome to hear some different versions of songs, such as Deep Sleep, and also songs that are not played so often – On The Impossible Past, My Friend Chris and Sun Hotel pt. 2 – as well as all the (Greg) hits. The whole set was excellent and definitely over too soon. I’d been keen to see Greg play solo again but now I also just want to see The Menzingers as a whole as soon as I can!

Next up it was time for the man we'd all come to see, a few of us not for the first time on this tour. Greg Barnett is the main singer in one of the most loved punk bands to emerge in the past decade – The Menzingers. Menzingers shows are well known for being crazy affairs with big sing-a-longs and bodies flying everywhere so before the tour started I was curious to see how it would translate into an acoustic environment. Turns out it translates really, really well! From the opening song Gates to the final song In Remission and the encore song Irish Goodbyes it was one big sing-a-long party. It was like a massive punk rock choir. It was just amazing. At times we sang so loud you couldn't actually hear Greg's voice through the microphone. Songs in particular that stood out with the Lexington's adoring crowd were The Obituaries, Good Things, Casey and I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore – the later receiving massive "whoa-ohs" during the chorus. We were also treated to some rarely played, softer songs such as Sun Hotel Part Two and My Friend Chris. Throughout the entire set Greg had us gripped, showing a much more story-telling side that we don't often see when he plays with The Menzingers. For me this type of show is what punk rock is all about in 2016 – it's about getting together with your friends and singing at the top of your voice to songs that really mean something to you. There was some real emotion on show at the Lexington that night and I suspect almost everybody in the room came away moved.

Check out Greg's band The Menzingers here:

Check out Bobby's solo stuff here:

Check out Bobby's band Captain We're Sinking here:

Check out Dave House here:

Check out Brightr here: