menzingers.jpg
Dawn Wilson, Fortheloveofpunk.com
Thanks to an ill-behaving camera, here's a shot of The Menzingers playing Denver instead.
The Menzingers, Cheap Girls

Saturday, March 31

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The Menzingers Showcase Songs from the Best Punk Album of 2012 at El Corazon

menzingers.jpg
Dawn Wilson, Fortheloveofpunk.com
Thanks to an ill-behaving camera, here's a shot of The Menzingers playing Denver instead.
The Menzingers, Cheap Girls

Saturday, March 31

El Corazon Lounge

From the opening chords of "Good Things," the song that kicks off the third LP from The Menzingers, which also began the band's set Saturday night, the hundred or so in attendance in El Corazon's bar, surged towards the stage, jamming themselves into the front half of the tiny venue to get as close to the band as possible. The Philadelphia quartet immediately ratcheted up the evening's energy level, taking the room from a five to an eleven in about three seconds flat, remaining there for the entirety of their hour-long set.

The Menzingers' latest LP, and their first for Epitaph, On the Impossible Past, is the best punk release of 2012 so far, and fans paid their respect by singing just about every word of every song, loudly, tattooed arms in the air, many clutching tall boys of Pabst Blue Ribbon, which spilled from outstretched arms onto the sweaty heads of those around them as people knocked into each other -- not that anybody noticed just as long as the band was playing. The show had the vibe of a basement show, with a muddy sound mix and the audience standing inches from the band. Unlike a basement, however, security checked tickets and IDs at the door, and in between songs you could hear the vague power chords of Moneta, who played in the larger room next door, echoing through the walls.

After scoring lots of good press for 2010's Chamberlain Watts, which was issued by the punk indie Red Scare, The Menzingers parlayed their momentum into a deal with Epitaph. The band has also been busy honing their chops on the road, solidifying their reputation as a killer live act, most recently via a run of small arenas with Rise Against. But the bar at El Corazon is no arena, which is fine since an arena isn't exactly the ideal setting for a punk show anyhow. The Menzingers seemed quite at home in the compact space, instantly turning the crowd, who were mostly sedate during the opening sets from Cheap Girls and The Sidekicks, into a frenzied ball of pogoing energy.

The band focused most of their set's attention on Impossible Past, an album that fuses the Midwest punk sound of bands like The Lawrence Arms and the Smoking Popes with a broader, more rootsy sound like that of The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me! and Lucero. Part of the reason Past is so good is that the band isn't afraid to look forward. "Gates" is a mid-tempo tale of drunk love set against the backdrop of a CVS parking lot. And even though the song never approaches anything near raging, it sustains the band's sound without sacrificing its emotional core. The band is also more literate than most punk bands. "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain," singer-guitarist Greg Barnett sings over the bouncy riff of "The Obituaries," one of Past's best tracks. "I felt the false azure from windowpanes."

Lansing, Michigan's Cheap Girls supported, playing the kind of heartland power-pop favored by Cheap Trick, The Replacements and It's a Shame About Ray-era Lemonheads. The band's songs were good, if a bit same-y, though the harmonies between brothers Ben and Ian Graham elevated the material. The band's performance was subdued but enjoyable, but it ultimately highlighted the sheer force of The Menzingers' live show.

It took a few minutes for the energy of the show to subside after the last chords of Operation Ivy's "Knowledge" rang out, which The Menzingers played to conclude their show, a fitting choice given that band's penchant for unbridled energy and emotion. As fans filed out into the rainy Seattle night, the bar's ambiance eventually stabilized, prompting an unlikely line of questioning: Why does my hair smell like beer?

Shifting gear: After their van broke down in Wyoming leaving their trailer and gear stranded, The Menzingers played their set using the Cheap Girls' equipment.

Hot dog!: "That sounds vile!" said Barnett in response to discovering Seattleites enjoy their hot dogs smothered in cream cheese and onions.

 
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