Whenever The Menzingers – one of my all-time favourite bands – are in town, you can bet that I’ll be keen to go. I admit that I preferred when they were playing smaller venues than The Forum in Kentish Town and I begrudge giving my money to a) Ticketmaster and b) an O2 venue but they’re a great band and, unfortunately for me, more people have realised this over the years. Grumbles about venue size aside, I was also extra excited to attend this show when they announced that Spanish Love Songs would be touring with the Philly foursome. If The Menzingers are one of my all-time favourite bands then Spanish Love Songs are one of my most favourites of the past two or three years – so, basically, soon to be all-time favourites. Add to the tour Mannequin Pussy, a band that I hadn’t listened to before but, after checking them out briefly, was keen to see live. This was bound to be a brilliant gig.
As Colin had taken the day off work in order to join me at the gig (Saturday night gigs are generally not good for us), we headed in to London earlier than usual to make the most of the day – and also because we didn’t know what impact the dreaded Storm Dennis was going to have on the trains. Surprisingly, no problems whatsoever was the answer! We went to the London Calling exhibition at the Museum Of London in Barbican which was a small collection of artefacts and information about The Clash’s classic album. As it was a miserably rainy day in London, the museum was very busy so, if you can, I’d recommend going on a week day and not a Saturday to have space to take it all in – the exhibition is on until 19th April. After that we headed to Temple Of Seitan with our pals Paul and Taj, to fill our tummies before the big punk rock show. I’m fairly certain there were several other people at Temple Of Seitan who were also going to see The Menzingers. What can I say, us punks like vegan junk food. Stomachs satisfied, it was time to head to The Forum…
Mannequin Pussy are a four piece from Philadelphia who released their third album, Patience, on Epitaph Records last year and they were first on. I always love how The Menzingers tend to bring a band from their hometown on their European tours with them. It’s often bands that we perhaps won’t know so well over here so the fans get to discover a potential new favourite band and the band get to play to big new audiences – everyone’s happy! As I mentioned earlier, I listened to Mannequin Pussy a little ahead of the gig to get a vague idea of what they were like. I must admit that I was a little put off by their band name at first but their songs more than made up for it, with a sound ranging from indie-style pop punk to ferocious feminist hardcore. It was that ferocity that really stood out to me when watching the band perform live with lead vocalist and guitarist Marisa’s voice ranging from angelic softness to intense mosh-pit inducing screams. I would say I enjoyed the louder and livelier songs the most, particularly Drunk II. Mannequin Pussy are a great band and I’d happily watch them live again.
Spanish Love Songs just keep getting better and better, both in terms of live performances and in terms of new music. Their third album, Brave Faces Everyone, was released during this tour with The Menzingers (on the 7th February) and so this has been as much an album release tour as a killer support slot for them. In the 15 or so months since Spanish Love Songs made their debut appearance in the UK, I have seen them live six times – with their set at The Forum being my seventh. To say that I love Spanish Love Songs would be an understatement. I’d spent the week running up to this gig listening to Brave Faces Everyone (it’s great – I will get around to writing a full review at some point) and learning the words. Of course, when the band took to the stage, I wasted no time in losing my voice singing along to some of my favourite songs – with those around me doing the same. From opening hit single Losers through to Schmaltz classics such as Buffalo Buffalo, The Boy Considers His Haircut and set closer Beer & Nyquil with newer tunes Routine Pain, Kick and Losers, Pt. 2 thrown in between, I adored every second of Spanish Love Songs’ performance. The new songs sound better than ever live and fit in nicely alongside songs from Schmaltz. It’s a little sad that I don’t think we’ll be hearing songs from their first album, Giant Sings The Blues, again any time soon but, when the new songs are this good, I guess I can live with that. What a performance from a ‘support’ band. It won’t be long before Spanish Love Songs are headlining venues of this size themselves!
It had been over a year since I last saw The Menzingers headline their own show, having only seen them once last year at Slam Dunk Festival (not a prime example of a Menzingers gig, to be honest) so I was rather looking forward to their set. Of course, since I last saw them, The Menzingers have released their sixth album. I must admit to not being a huge fan of Hello Exile as a whole – I did review the album if you want to know more of my thoughts. Basically, I like the singles and a couple of other songs but it just didn’t meet the high standard set by 2017’s After The Party for me. However, I was hoping that by hearing the new songs live, I might see something in them that I was otherwise missing. Opening their set with Anna, the lead single from Hello Exile, seemed to go down a treat with the crowd and we certainly had no problem singing along to it as if it was an old favourite. The song has a big anthem-like feel and so it didn’t sound at all out of place being played to 2000 people. But what’s better than that many people singing along to ‘I have so much to yell you, Please come back to Philadelphia’? That many people yelling ‘I will fuck this up, I fucking know it’! To follow a newer song with The Obituaries, from the iconic album On The Impossible Past, was pretty perfect if you ask me. I certainly had a nice time screaming along to one of my favourite songs. From then on, it was a combination of songs from the last four albums including Rodent, Portland, Good Things, Burn After Writing, Tellin’ Lies and Strangers Forever. Tom was his typical bouncy self, truly having the best time on stage – not that the rest of the band weren’t, he’s just such a joy to watch. There was certainly no tiredness on show from the band due to this being this being the last night of the tour. Whether The Menzingers were playing songs from OTIP or Hello Exile, those around me were singing along to every single word with plenty of fists thrown in the air for the rowdier tunes. Clearly much of The Menzingers’ fan-base, or at least those that had come out to see them on this tour, didn’t have such doubts about the band’s latest album. I’m not sure hearing the songs live has changed my opinion all that much but there’s no denying that I still have the best time whenever I’m at a Menzingers show. They are still one of my favourite bands of all time.
Unfortunately, due to the questionable nature of Storm Dennis and the fact that our last train that didn’t involve a rail replacement bus service was at 10:35pm we had to leave the gig quite early. I was hoping to hear After The Party before we had to leave, as that’s always such a joy to scream along to, but I later found out that it was the very last song of the encore – understandable really as it’s such an awesome song! We missed about five or six songs, including a cover of Death Of Glory by The Clash which I’m sure would have been brilliant, but we did manage to get home without any hiccups. And, besides, I’m seeing The Menzingers (and Spanish Love Songs) again later this year anyway, when they play Booze Cruise Festival in Hamburg which is going to be ridiculously good! The whole line-up is incredible and having been to the DIY fest last year, I’d highly recommend it.
This gig review was written by Emma Prew. Photos also by Emma.