Against all odds, Pennsylvania punk outfit the Menzingers gets better with every tour. The band gained quite the following with its fantastic 2012 album, On the Impossible Past. If Past serves as an introduction to the Menzingers, the band's most recent record, Rented World, will make lifelong fans.
The Menzingers has a devoted audience. I speak from experience -- I went on a mini-tour and saw the band three nights in a row.
Phoenix Even though the Menzingers performed at Yucca Tap Room less than six months ago, Monday night's show was still varied enough to keep it interesting. At the Yucca show, the band performed a few songs from Rented World, which at that point remained unreleased. I remember being taken by "Rodent" at the Yucca show, and it was great to be able to sing along this time around.
Pub Rock Live is quickly turning into one of my favorite places to see punk shows in Phoenix. Monday night's Menzingers show reminded me a bit of the Lawrence Arms show back in February, without the pesky guardrails. I'm all for safety, but having your shins hit a crowd-divider time and time again is not fun. The venue works well as the next size up from Yucca Tap Room, as both locations house plenty of rowdy fans.
For most dates, Menzingers have played a similar set. The band front-loads its strongest material, opening with "I Don't Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore" and a relentless onslaught of "Good Things," "Burn After Writing," and "In Remission." At the three shows I attended, the band finally took a small breather before "Who's Your Partner," but by and large got through the set with minimal banter.
Phoenix had a few good stories, though. Vocalist Tom May thanked the crowd for not throwing shot glasses at the band this time. May and second singer Greg Barnett discussed how Off With Their Heads' Ryan Young is already an angry guy, but having a shot glass thrown at his head made him absolutely livid.
There weren't any rogue shot glasses, but there were a few obstacles. Toward the end of Menzingers' set, a woman jumped on stage to plant a kiss on Barnett's cheek. The stage monitors kept getting knocked out of place as the crowd got rowdy. Fortunately, the tour manager and a few kind fans in the front did what they could to keep them in place. The gear bounced around a bit, but the sound was still good. But then again, I still have tinnitus and hearing loss this morning, so I may not be the best authority on the matter.
A couple Phoenix-specific songs included "I Can't Seem to Tell" and "Timetables." If you're bummed that they didn't play songs like "Sun Hotel," "Deep Sleep," or "Where Your Heartache Exists," it's due to the subtle setlist changes between dates.
Crowd favorites included "Irish Goodbyes," "Good Things," and "Casey." A staple in Menzingers' set is closing out with "Transient Love" before the encore. This is one of my favorite songs from Rented World, but I wasn't counting on them performing it because it's a slower song. The guitar effects sound beautiful live, and the song works as a good breather for the encore.
The two given encore songs are "Gates" and "The Obituaries." The third song varies by date, with Phoenix (and San Diego) getting "Sunday Morning" as the third song. I may have seen this tour three days in a row, but I have yet to get burnt out on the bands. This is one of those rare instances where I loved every band on the bill. Lemuria was the second to last band to play each night, and could have easily been billed as a dual headliner.
Lemuria opens each show with its new single, "Brilliant Dancer." The band's new bassist, Max Gregor takes this quite literally- he has some awesome dance moves and never stays still.
Vocalist Sheena Ozzella was quite charming. She thanked the crowd for singing along to songs like "Pants" and "Hours."
Gregor said he felt drunk thanks to a tasty vegan chicken sandwich from Green. Ozzella asked if the crowd was excited for Menzingers and noted that they probably weren't drunk off of chicken sandwiches.
The remaining opening acts, Pup and Cayetana, were both fantastic. Each served as a nice counterpart to the rest of the bill -- Pup's punk sensibilities were a good lead-in for Menzingers. Pup released its debut album a couple months ago and shows promise. Philadelphia pop-punk trio Cayetana is one of the best opening acts I've seen in a long time. The band is still a bit of a mystery, as their album has not been released yet, but you can listen to their new single here. I'm thankful that the band sold its new record before the release date, though honestly, I've been on the run so much that I haven't had an opportunity to listen to it yet.
Los Angeles Well, readers, if you thought the Phoenix show was good, you really missed out on not going to The Roxy Theatre show. This was truly one for the books, as Menzingers added a few extra songs and told more stories.
Tom May described "Nice Things" as a song about student loans. "Ava House" was dedicated to their friends back in Pennyslvania. "Where Your Heartache Exists" was beautiful live, I hope the band considers keeping it in their set more often.
I love going to L.A. shows because you almost always see a famous person. OK, I use "famous" loosely, but there's a good chance you'll see a musician you recognize. As it turns out, Upset's Ali Koehler (formerly of Best Coast), is a pretty big Lemuria fan.
I was also lucky enough to watch this show from the balcony. I had a bird's eye view of the craziest Menzingers crowd I have ever seen. The band thanked the audience for being polite crowd surfers, and they were right -- most fans kept their hands and feet to themselves and did minimal damage.
I stuck around after the show for a bit and overheard Pup having a very involved conversation about Cloud Nothings. The elephant in the room, so to speak, was a black bra casually placed in the middle of a table. I'm curious how it got there, but for the sake of randomness and a good story, I'll assume that Matt from SideOneDummy had something to do with it after stage diving during Pup's set. He even wore a helmet for protection!
San Diego Full disclosure: I got to this show much later than I should have. I didn't realize just how early a Sunday night San Diego show would start. I chatted with Cayetana last night, and they said their San Diego show started at 6:30 p.m.
I was busy eating ice cream on the beach around that time. I'm sorry I missed everyone but Menzingers in San Diego, but you know ... priorities.
Admittedly, I'm not that familiar with San Diego's music scene. I've been to a few venues and know enough to be aware that the Che Café is closing, but I had never heard of The Irenic. This new venue is a church by day, concert hall by night. I assumed that the sound would be sub-par, and it would be a dry venue, and was wrong on both accounts. I now have the life experience of drinking a beer in church and screaming "I will fuck this up, I fucking know it."
The San Diego show had the smallest crowd of the three shows I attended, but it was a nice break. I was scrunched against the stage in Phoenix, and was pretty far away in L.A., but I got to enjoy Menzingers from a comfortable distance. The show ended at 10 p.m., so I took to the nightlife. My friend took me to a bar called Live Wire that reminded me a bit of the dearly departed Rogue West, only it was a bit cleaner and had stronger drinks.
See next page for Critic's Notebook and set list
Last Night: Menzingers at Pub Rock
Personal Bias: Obvious. I also saw Menzingers two nights in a row during their January tour.
The Crowd: Mostly young guys, but for a rowdy crowd, they were pretty polite. Thank you for not playing "Let's fuck with the photographer."
Overheard: At the San Diego show, Greg Barnett said he was sad that the California leg of the tour was almost over. He said he was dreading going to the desert the next day. Fans have asked why Menzingers always play in Phoenix on a Monday or a Tuesday and seem so tired. "It's because we either just had a great time in California, or a horrible time in Texas," he said.
Was it worth it?: I'm now broke, my ear is still ringing, I'm exhausted, and I think I may be getting sick, but this was one of the best weekends of my life. So that's a resounding "hell yes."
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