The Menzingers make us fall in love (again) at O2 Forum Kentish Town

Whether it was your first time seeing the Pennsylvania outfit or the 100th – we all fell in love with The Menzingers. 

Having released their stellar sixth studio album Hello Exile via Epitaph Records last fall, The Menzingers had us at hello (excuse the pun). From the first play of Hello Exile we could not wait to experience it all live and raw. If you’ve seen this band before, you know their live shows are epic at the very least. A Menzingers crowd is a different kind of crowd, it’s like a really really big group of friends and family who have all been through similar sh*t together.

With support from Philly punks Mannequin Pussy and LA five-piece Spanish Love Songs there was no denying how punk this show would be. And boy was it ever.

Just ahead of their support set, Spanish Love Songs had released their third full-length record Brave Faces Everyone via Pure Noise Records. So not only did we get treated to new music from the headliners but new music from the support as well. And treat is the perfect summary of Spanish Love Songs’ performance. Having been admired by many of the audience already, the band had no trouble getting everyone going and involved.

There was singing along and mosh pits almost from the word go and for the entirety of the ten tracks. From the first few riffs of Losers, off of the band’s new record, right until the last notes of Beer & Nyquil (Hold It Together) had passed, the crowd was hooked and those who hadn’t heard of Spanish Love Songs before this show were surely converted.

Produced by guitarist Kyle McAulay at Howard Benson’s West Valley Recording, Brave Faces Everyone was released on 7 February 2020 and goes down like a cold beer on a warm summer night. Songs like Routine Pain and Kick are instant hits with the crowd while songs from 2018’s Schmaltz feel like old friends already.

Over the last two records, Scranton punks The Menzingers have grown up. Or at least they’ve tried. And so have their fanbase. That’s always been the beauty of The Menzingers, there’s always been this invisible thread that was sewn throughout the lives of their fans and the band. Lyrics were always more than relatable, always speaking of stories we had all experienced in some shape or form. And now with Hello Exile and After The Party, we all had some growing up to do and learn from the mistakes we’ve made. But here’s the thing, The Manzingers are always there to let us know we’re not alone in feeling a little lost when you’re in your early 30’s and not sure where your life is even headed, when life long friendships end, and the government is just throwing another fascist reform at you.

And so on this Saturday night, we meet in North London at a packed out O2 Forum Kentish Town to celebrate that music that made us, that helped us, that is always there for us. Rules of “no crowd surfing” are forgotten as soon as you walk past the sign – it’s a punk show, what do you expect? More so, it’s The Menzingers – crowd surfing, singing your heart out and occasional crying are mandatory.

The setlist leaves little to be desired, with absolute tune Anna with its killer chorus in true Menzingers fashion kicks things off followed by 2012’s The Obituaries and After The Party’s House On Fire whose line “Waiting for your life to start then you die” really packs a punch of reality.

“I know that politics are fucked in England, but you can rest assured there’s a place where it’s worse and that’s in the United States of America.” vocalist Greg Barnett notes before the band charge into American (You’re Freaking Me Out). The track is a socio-critical look at the current political situation in America, especially the large difference in living standards between rich and poor, calling out the previous generation’s voting patterns. And as Greg points out, the situation isn’t much better in the UK, which is why songs like this resonate hugely amongst the audience. Fittingly, it’s followed by iconic track I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, which references destructive behavior in a relationship but let’s be honest if the world was a little less asshole we’d all live better lives.

If you’re a punk band playing in London what better icons to cover than London legends The Clash. With Death Or Glory The Menzingers paid homage in a humble way that had the whole room going wild. Who could resist a bit of Joe Strummer and Co?

Before they send us off into the encore we get to destroy our lungs to every wonderful word and melody in the always epic Lookers. There is something about East Coast songwriters in rock and punk that produces lyrics that are not only incredibly relatable but they are composed in a way that is quite literally poetic which shows in The Menzingers’ songwriting and not less so in encore tracks In Remission and After The Party. 

And so the band from Scranton, that means the world to this entire room, leave us with “after the party it’s me and you” and we’re absolutely fine with this sentiment, Menzingers. Because we’ll be on our way home, with headphones in our ears and your songs on full blast.

Mostly tonight, it becomes clear that even after six albums, The Menzingers haven’t lost their magic, quite the contrary has happened. As we grow with them, we grow more fondly and attached to them. The Springsteen-esque story-telling will never not be beautiful and haunting at the same time, and the punk rock hooks and anthemic choruses will never not have us break out in song when we hear them.

Here’s to The Menzingers, one of the best bands in the world. And no, we’re not taking any arguments at this point.