Show Review

The Menzingers @ House of Blues 3/1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                (Sanchez/2017)
Lisa Sanchez

​The first time I saw The Menzingers, they were opening for Taking Back Sunday in 2015 at the House of Blues. A little less than two years later, the Pennsylvania quartet were headlining the same venue to a sizable crowd.
 
Although The Menzingers' recently released album, After the Party, didn’t have the same bite as their previous releases, you know I had a good time. The band put on a great show of new and old material at the Cleveland House of Blues on March 1. But, instead of brooding, they brought a party.
 
I connect with The Menzingers on a personal level because guitarists Tom May and Greg Barnett sing about things I can relate to; getting older and looking back at your past experiences with a resounding “What the hell?”

But, the House of Blues show created a bit of dissonance for me when I saw teenagers singing along to “Lookers” saying, “Lost in a picture frame, the way our bodies used to behave, The way we smiled in the moment, Before they permanently froze, But that was the old me and you, When we were both lookers”

Like, come on y’all. You’re still lookers. Let the aged punks have their song. But, it just spoke to the nature of The Menzingers and how these average Scranton boys were able to connect with people of all ages through unrelenting life experiences paired with an irresistible pop-punk beat.
 
The House of Blues wasn’t maxed out for the show, but the constant movement made the venue seem fuller than it was. Cleveland was The Menzingers’ second show for their headlining show, so I caught them fresh on the road, and they delivered one of the tightest sets I’ve seen in recent memory.

The “I Don’t Want to be An Asshole Anymore” kings played for an hour and twenty minutes without any grandstanding, side talk, or calls to excite the crowd. The Menzingers were there to play and the crowd did what comes naturally. When we heard the first “Oh yeah Oh yeah, everything is terrible, buying marijuana makes you feel like a criminal” of “Tellin’ Lies,” the first song off of After the Party, everyone in the venue screamed with welcome.

Kudos to The Menzingers for crafting a set list that played to their strongest songs, including “Good Things” and “Obituaries (my personal favorite), from 2012’s On the Impossible Past, while still plugging their new songs. “Bad Catholics” and “Thick as Thieves” from After the Party also got a well-deserved response from the crowd. After the Party was released a little less than a month before the show, on February 3, but it seemed like every person in the House of Blues had already learned all the lyrics.

As I said in my review, After the Party is a great album, but it lacked that gut punch that The Menzingers excel at best. With that said, the band breathes new energy into their live songs. “House on Fire,” which was a mediocre track for me, gained a whole new meaning when The Menzingers are bouncing around and singing it onstage and in person.
 
Tom May, if you’re reading this, damn you for being so approachable and therefor appealing. The guitarist/vocalist didn’t stop moving once during the hour plus set, which I give him credit for because I’m estimating we’re the same age (but he’s prettier) and I could barely stay upright for a concert after a full time job and general crankiness.
 
About three quarters through the set, The Menzingers invited Dylan Flynn onstage to talk about his charity for traumatic brain injuries. During The Menzingers set, bassist Eric Keen played Dylan’s bass to raise awareness for the organizer’s cause. Due to a sudden brain injury, Dylan lost some motor function and is now unable to play his bass, so he asks bands to play it for him in order to raise awareness.

Dylan has been plugging away at the Pass the Bass campaign for two years as a one man operation. Although it’s a solo mission, Dylan has gotten bassists such as Bryan Kienlen (Bouncing Souls), Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio, The Falcon, Dan Andriano and the Emergency Room), and Mark Hoppus (Blink-182) to wield his bass in support of the cause. A Columbus native, Dylan collects donations at shows and online. Feel free to donate here.
                                                           This fuckin' guy. (Sanchez/2017)
​I really wasn’t sure where The Menzingers set ended and their albums began. The songs were so right, I felt like I was dancing in my apartment to “Midwestern States” or singing “Nice Things” in my car, except with hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing. That experience speaks to the larger appeal of The Menzingers: they get it. I don’t know how or why they get it, and I’m sure the answers lie in a bunch of fucked up situations, but this quartet is able to tap into that human condition that makes us want to laugh and cry at the same time. Dance and be sad. Laugh and feel a little hollow. And jeez, if that isn’t enough of a reason to see The Menzingers live then I don’t know what is.
 
Also, I’d easily pay ticket price for a set list that reads like a “greatest hits” montage. The Menzingers are what you want pop-punk to be, real, emotional, but not female fetishizing and complacent like you hear with some other genre mainstays. When The Menzingers come to Ohio agan I’ll go see them, just like I saw them in 2015, because they put on a damn good show and make no bones about it.