Mr. Smalls Funhouse
February 28, 2017
The first time I saw the Menzingers play in Pittsburgh was at this club that doubled as a concert venue and a nightclub. I remember it so clearly because it was the first and only punk show I attended that had air conditioning. I was there, shivering a bit, and these four gangly, grungy dudes walk on stage and that was it, I was hooked--a forever fan. The amount of energy and conviction the Menzingers possessed that night gave them the title in my mind for many years after as the best current live performing punk band.
Flash forward some 6-7 years later and the Menzingers were back in Pittsburgh kicking off their tour for their newest release After The Party. They opened their set up with their new hit "Lookers", not a bad move on their part considering that song was released first before the entire album. Not to mention it's one of the catchiest songs on the entire album. These boys might not be as grungy looking as they did before, but I'm not complaining here. The Menzingers are one of those punk bands that have managed to become better versions of themselves while still remaining true to their roots; they essentially have become the adults we all want to be.
That being said, the Menzingers are like any smart band and played to their strengths during their set. Yes it's a tour for their newest album so we all except those new songs to be played, however that doesn't mean you can abandon the old songs that crowds will expect as well. About four songs in they played "The Obituaries" and you could hear the entire crowd singing along. I remember looking around at the crowd and feeling this stupid sense of purpose. You know, that feeling when you realize you're not alone in the world and in that moment you are in the same mindset as all the people around you. It's a great feeling and why a lot of people enjoy shows so much.
Before playing "Thick as Thieves" guitarist/singer Greg Barnett shared with the crowd that Pittsburgh was one of the first stops the band played when they toured for On The Impossible Past. He remembered being nervous to play the new songs, wondering if people would like them, and he admitted he felt the same way this night about After The Party and it felt really reassuring to hear people singing along. It was a touching moment because usually stage banter is full of terrible or just plain awkward jokes, but it was an honest, raw moment that captured who the Menzingers are as a band and who Barnett is as a songwriter.
Halfway through their set they played the classic "Time Tables", a signature song about heartbreak and youth that we all know and love. "After the Party" was also a standout song for me because prior to the show it wasn't a song I payed much attention to, but hearing it live added conviction to it. "Midwestern States" and "Tellin' Lies" are sure to become classic Menzingers' hits, they are hands down two of the catchiest and musically pleasing songs both on the record and live.
They solidly ended their encore with "Casey" and "In Remission"; two of their strongest songs about the ups and downs of relationships that really hit at the heartstrings of your youth. The Menzingers did manage to still engage the audience and create undeniable energy after years of performing, but I will say there was a different air about them this time around. Maybe it's the fact that I'm in my late 20s now and I'm not the angsty youth I once was. Maybe it's the fact that the band itself is maturing. Maybe it's both. I'm not mad at those facts either, because after all, where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?
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