I could not help but notice the crowd around me as I stood in the Hawthorne Theatre during The Menzingers show on Nov. 6. By my count, there were at least seven instances of crowd surfing and a constant mosh pit during the three and a half-hour concert.
The show had two opening acts. The first was Culture Abuse, a punk band hailing from San Francisco. With long-haired guitarists head-banging and a lead singer screaming into the mic while flipping off a photographer, they were as memorable for their appearance as much as they were for the hardcore punk they played. Following them was Tigers Jaw, who are more in the vein of pop-punk than hardcore. Their set was boosted by the crowd, as their more popular status meant fans could sing along to their favorite songs. After the two strong openers, the crowd was ready for the main act: The Menzingers.
The Menzingers are a punk rock band formed in 2006 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They are carried by lead vocalists and guitarists Greg Barnett and Tom May, accompanied by bassist Eric Keen and drummer Joe Godino. Though their first two albums were received positively, they rose to prominence in the punk community with their 2012 album “On The Impossible Past.” Laced with themes of regret and tales of mistakes and heartbreak, Barnett and May make listeners feel nostalgic for even the worst parts of the past — torn between yearning for a former life and hoping for the future.
The prevalence of these themes continued through their 2014 album “Rented World,” and their 2017 album “Lookers.” Touring to support their new album “Hello Exile,” Barnett and May are still figuring out how to navigate life by exploring these themes. Though the album has not been as acclaimed as some of their earlier work, they still know how to put on a show.
After walking on stage with David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” playing in the background, the lights turned red, white and blue as they broke out into “America (You’re Freaking Me Out).” The opening track to “Hello Exile,” it was one of the first times the band has gotten overtly political with one of their songs, critiquing the current state of the country.
Without pause between songs, they moved onto “The Obituaries,” a fan favorite from “On The Impossible Past” that is easy to sing along to. The show hit a high point when May took a moment to explain how he has “waited months” for the moment in this show where he gets to sing a song about, and named after, one of his favorite cities: Portland. The band followed this with “Good Things” and “Burn After Writing,” two fan favorites that sparked the crowd into an excited frenzy.
While the band rocked for most of the show, the performance took a slight dive when Barnett took his turn to speak, explaining the meaning behind their popular song “Casey.” He explained how in the band’s early days, they would hang out with other musicians and write together. A friend named Danny, Barnett explained, wrote a beautiful song called “Casey” that never saw the light of day. When writing “On The Impossible Past,” Barnett thought about the band’s early days and wanted to bring that song out into the public. He asked to borrow a few lines, which eventually became the chorus of Barnett’s “Casey.” Since Danny’s song was acoustic, the band performed their version acoustic as well. While the story was enlightening for fans, the mellow version, followed by another slow song seemed to suck some of the life out of the theater.
However, the band knew how to reinvigorate the crowd, playing “Anna,” the lead single off of “Hello Exile,” and transitioning into “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore,” their biggest hit from “Rented World.” After navigating a rocky relationship on“Strain Your Memory” and lamenting about the vapidness of modern society on “Nice Things,” the band left the stage for a few minutes, leaving fans hoping for an encore, which the band ultimately delivered.
The band capped off the night with “After The Party.” Describing a whirlwind relationship of highs and lows, the song also served as a perfect end to a night of music, mosh pits and crowd surfing. It was a night of partying.