by Adam McGrath
Naked gratitude poured from Greg Barnett’s sweat-drenched face as The Menzingers’ vocalist profusely thanked the huge crowd of friends, family, and fans at Union Transfer Saturday night. He was right to be overwhelmed by what could be the biggest show of his music career to date. Sure, there may have been bigger stages or bigger crowds, but in terms of pure passion, nothing can top the full-throttle experience of this performance. That’s the beauty of a hometown show.
It was the first time The Menzingers has headlined Philly’s hottest venue, and the show was night three on a 32-stop tour in support of the band’s fourth album, Rented World (Epitaph), which debuted at #50 on the Billboard 200 chart. These achievements are well earned, as the band has crafted their post-punk sound through years of writing and touring. The Menzingers are carrying the torch of honest, emotional rock music that they and many others in the Delaware Valley grew up with.
After excellent opening sets from Philly’s Cayetana, Toronto’s Pup, and Buffalo’s Lemuria, the youthful crowd was primed for the main event, ready to blow. The Menzingers sparked the powder keg with the opening notes of “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore”, the rousing first track from Rented World. The entire first half of the floor became a swirling, bending mass of bodies as Barnett belted out “Baby baby I’ll be good to you” on top of co-vocalist and guitarist Tom May’s oohs and aahs.
The chain reaction continued through “Good Things”, “Burn After Writing”, and “In Remission”. I have to say I’ve never seen such constant or violent stage diving as I did at this show. With the crowd pressed right up against the stage, it was easy for the same three or four dudes to jump up and literally somersault repeatedly into the crowd. A few girls surfed benignly, but I’d be surprised if somebody didn’t go home with a concussion the way bodies were flying off the stage. The band treated it as par for the course, though, and simply dodged the fans running around them.
Most of the 21-song, 75-minute set came from the new album and the one prior, 2012’s breakthrough On The Impossible Past. Songs like “Ava House” and “Where Your Heartache Exists” offered a few minutes for the audience to catch their breath, and things stayed somewhat reserved as the set concluded with “Bad Things”, “Casey” and “Transient Love.” The only song I wish they played is “Nothing Feels Good Anymore”, one of my favorites from the new album.
After a quick break, The Menzingers tore the place down with an encore of “Gates”, “A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology” (the title track of their 2007 debut), and “The Obituaries”, which makes for a perfect closing track with the refrain “I will fuck this up, I fucking know it.” The Menzingers success comes from their talent for writing songs that elicit complete emotional release, and Barnett’s ability to switch from his normal singing voice to a razorblade scream provides that extra punch of aggression that young men crave.
Saturday night’s headlining gig at Union Transfer is a milestone in The Menzingers’ career. Surrounded by so many loved ones and longtime fans, they had made it, and they knew it. The local boys had done good, and all the work, all the years grinding it out, culminated in an amazing night of music.