Friendly Confines: The Menzingers @Union Transfer

It’s an amazing thing to see a band gain notoriety between tours. The last tour the Menzingers did that came through Philly, they played First Unitarian Church, a venue with a capacity of maybe 500. It was packed, sweaty, loud, and one of the wildest shows I’ve ever been to. Hearing that they were coming to Union Transfer touring the release of their newest album Rented World (review here) I was filled with a lot of pride for the guys, but also some fear that their live show would be somewhat diluted. Graduating to a bigger space is hard in a lot of ways, mainly because you lose the intimacy, the vitality and the exclusivity that made the early shows so damn special.

Well, guess what. None of that happened.

This show, more than any other I’ve been to, felt like a bro-down between friends. We were proud to have them onstage and they were proud to be playing their hometown Philly in one of the city’s best venues. Which they owned completely.

The show opened with Cayetana, a three piece band made up of local Philly natives. A great mix of dream pop and punk kept heads bobbing and got everyone ready for the jams to come. Next was by far the best opener of the three – PUP, hailing from Toronto, Canada, are an amazing four piece melodic punk band with a very progressive feel. The drum beats were all over the place, the guitars wailed and chugged with urgency, and the whole thing had the crowd grooving and moving. Four part harmonies were pitch perfect and very impressive and, ending with their single ‘Reservoir’, made their mark in Philly. You can come back across the border any time, boys. The third opener was a band named Lemuria, a Buffalo NY oriented three piece band with a female singer/guitarist. They were very groovy, but also much more aligned to Cayetana’s sound than PUP’s, which lead me to wish PUP had been the final opener leading into the main event. It would’ve flowed a lot better, but I digress! The music worked just fine, and the openers were all impressive. Everyone was more than ready for the Menzingers to come out and blow our heads off.

Kicking it off with the shredding opening guitar line from their single, “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore”, they came out guns blazing and never let up for the rest of the show. Any time singers Greg Barnett or Tom May had to catch their breath, or didn’t make it back to the mic in time, it was no matter. The crowd knew every single world, shouting it back while milling about in the main pit just at the front of the stage. It took me right back to that First Unitarian Basement – the camaraderie, the feeling of being with a bunch of pals watching four dudes have the time of their lives – it was all that but better, and literally on a much bigger stage.

They tore through all of their most popular songs off Rented World and 2012’s release On the Impossible Past. After “Asshole” came “Good Things” and “Burn After Writing”, a ballsy and rockin’ 1-2-3 punch of their openers of those newest albums. Right after came “In Remission”, the first track off Rented World, and the guys were already covered in sweat and grinning ear to ear, just like the audience. They knew what we knew: they were killing it.

It’s really cool to see a band put just as much of their hearts on the stage as the fans in the crowd do, dancing and jumping and shouting. There was a true connection here. Time and time again they thanked us from the bottom of their hearts. “This is a dream come true to play on this stage, the best venue in the country, in the city where we have so many friends and family that are here right now,” said Barnett. “This is the greatest night of our lives and we have you to thank.”

They ran through their hits, touching on a couple of songs off their sophomore effort Chamberlain Waits like “I Was Born,” “Who’s Your Partner,” and “Deep Sleep” which were both huge hits with the crowd. At this point they could do no wrong, but it’s not like they ever could. This was their night, and they owned it with all the gusto and aplomb you’d expect for a band that’s just coming into it’s own as a force to be reckoned with. I was surprised when they ended their main set with the slowest, jammiest tune off Rented World, “Transient Love”, but after a while it started to make sense. They cut back a little and let the music do the talking at the end, opting to walk off stage after an extended outro jam of noise and feedback and beautiful chaos. After some serious chants for one more song, they came out to raucous applause for a three song encore, which included “Gates”, the title track off their first album “A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology”, and my personal favorite Menzingers song was saved for last, a track off of Impossible Past called “The Obituaries.” This was a masterstroke. The chorus is immediately identifiable and one of the biggest and more effective sing along choruses you’re likely to hear, and everyone was more than game for it. Who doesn’t love to shout the F word at the top of their already hoarse lungs? “I will f**k this up, I f**king know it” could probably have been heard down the length of Spring Garden last Saturday night, and that’s only a testament to the amazing Menzingers show that went down at Union Transfer. This band is good, really good, and it’s been a pleasure continuing to see them grow into a crowd slaying machine.

Photo Credits: Michaelcerio

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