Saturday, 15 October 2016

Gig Review: The Menzingers at the Scala 12/10/16 (by Emma Prew)

I’ve mentioned a few times in various contributions to this blog that The Menzingers are almost definitely my favourite band. I know it’s not always good to claim one band (or album or whatever) is your absolute favourite, but there isn’t another band or artist that gets me quite so excited as The Menzingers do. I love them most at a live show and I hadn’t seen them (full band) in over two years, so needless to say I was ridiculously excited for their London show on Wednesday night.

The last time I saw The Menzingers, and indeed last time they were on tour in the UK (aside from their Reading Festival appearance last year), they brought with them The Holy Mess and The Smith Street Band – an awesome line up. For this short run of UK dates, they had Swansea-based Hot Mass and Philly comrade Roger Harvey on board.

First up were Hot Mass. I’m not entirely sure how to best describe Hot Mass’ sound as it is quite different to that of your average punk band. They are very guitar-driven with distorted and fast-paced riffs. Definitely the kind of music to get your head nodding along to and just what was needed to open the show. They’ve become a new favourite of Colin’s with their latest album, Nervous Tensions, and I know he particularly enjoyed seeing them live. We both said the song Action At A Distance was our favourite for its shout-along style chorus.

Then it was time for something different again. It was quite a surprise (I mean, not literally a surprise on the night – I do generally look up and a listen to support acts beforehand) to have an acoustic artist on before The Menzingers, especially after the more typical punk line up of the last tour. That said, Roger Harvey’s set was a refreshing change in sound and pace – I guess you could say he was the calm before the storm. I’d listened to his debut album, Twelve Houses, which has more than just acoustic guitar – some songs include brass, while others are a little bit electronic-sounding – but I actually enjoyed him better live with a more stripped back sound. There was a little bit of talking somewhere in the audience, as is often unfortunately the way with acoustic artists, but most were deeply absorbed in Roger’s music. I’ll be listening to him some more, for sure.

As is often the case before a headlining band takes to the stage, Colin turned to me and asked what song I thought The Menzingers would open with. I instantly said ‘Lookers’, as the band’s newest song (that is actually available to stream and whatnot online) it seemed appropriate to me. Colin thought it was perhaps a bit risky for them to open with a new song… but guess what they opened with? Besides being a new song, Lookers is also a song that starts fairly gently with just Greg’s guitar and vocals, before the rest of the band kicks in. So it turns out this is also an excellent way to start a Menzingers gig. I must admit I hadn’t been completely sold on Lookers when I first heard it but hearing it live for the first time was something else. It was also really great to hear the crowd singing along despite the album the song is from, After The Party, not even being released yet.

The singing, or perhaps more shouting, continued into live show favourite The Obituaries with everyone in the room screaming ‘I will fuck this up, I fucking know it.’ at the top of their lungs. The band were on top form with a performance that seemed to me to be so ever slightly more perfected than when I’ve seen them previously – definitely not a bad thing. They flowed skilfully from one song to the next with a setlist that just worked. Highlights for me from their set included; I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, Who’s Your Partner, Sun Hotel, Rodent, Rivalries and, of course, Good Things. Although, for whatever reason, the band chose to not play any songs from their debut album, A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology (I guess a band gets pretty sick of playing the same 10 year old songs all the time). As the album that got me into The Menzingers, I was a little bit disappointed by this but the quality of the rest of the set more than made up for it. As well as Lookers, we were treated to another track from their upcoming fifth album called Thick As Thieves. Tom takes the lead on this one and I just have to mention how much I love watching him perform – he simply cannot stand still. The Menzingers are a band that is definitely at home on stage, but they are also very appreciative of their audience – Greg and Tom (being the two vocalists) each expressed this – and you can tell how happy they are performing.

In what felt like no time at all the band was leaving the stage but we knew they’d be back – after all, they hadn’t played Gates or In Remission yet. Returning for their encore, Greg, Tom, Joe and Eric were joined by fellow Philadelphian (is that a term people use?) Roger Harvey to add some acoustic guitar to Gates. I wouldn’t have thought adding an acoustic guitar – rather than playing an entirely acoustic version – would work but it actually sounded really good, so cheers Roger. The band then found they had more time left than planned and decided to fit in their cover of The Bouncing Souls’s Kate Is Great. It was my first time hearing The Menzingers version live and it was awesome. As predicted, In Remission was the band’s closing track. By this point my throat was well and truly raw from shouting along to the rest of their set but that didn’t stop me, nor the rest of the crowd, from singing along one last time.

The Menzingers are the best and I simply cannot wait to see them again in two weeks time across the pond at The Fest!

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