The Menzingers at Starland Ballroom 4/2/22
Photo by author
Let's go back a bit, shall we? The date was March 11. 2020 and my life (and everyone else's) was about to look radically different. You'd think this sentence is going to be about the Covid-19 pandemic, but it's not. At least not yet.
If we turn the calendar back just a bit further to February 19, 2020, I was in the hospital undergoing a cardiac ablation to try and control my daily bouts with Afib, an incurable heart condition that pretty much controls your life. It sucks.
Back to March 11th. Not quite one full month since my heart was being burned and scarred to hopefully put the Afib at bay, I was in NYC with some friends seeing Dave Hause touring on his latest album (at that time), Kick. I wasn't fully healed yet, I was a bit weak, and wasn't sure what my body would allow me to do. Oh, and it was just days before the world shut down and that pending doom was palpable.
The show was great. It was the best form of recovery for me, which I wrote about it here. As we all know, just a few days after this show took place, the world went on lockdown. The music stopped. Everything stopped.
Seven hundred and fifty-two days later, with what seems like a lifetime of shit in between, the music came back. It came back with volume, purpose, and the intensity that only live music can provide.
The house lights dimmed, the music blaring over the PA stopped, and the screen in front of the stage rose to the rafters signaling the end of my almost two-year hiatus from live music. It's not easy to describe what that moment was like for me. I haven't gone without live music for this long since I started going to shows in the late 80s/early 90s. I'll tell you what, I never plan on living through a stretch like that again.
I've seen The Menzingers before but this show was different. It was the first time they'd headlined The Starland Ballroom, and they were amped as hell to do so. Hailing from Scranton, PA, the band has a distinct sound that separates them from other early 2000-ish punk bands.
Like the grunge movement before them, the late 90s through the mid-2000s saw a rash of bands straddle the line of underground and commercially successful punk rock acts. The Menzingers formed in 2006 amongst contemporaries like The Lawrence Arms, Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem, and others. Mixing punk sensibilities with melody, crunch, aggression, and the ability to tell stories that fans could relate to, The Menzingers built a devoted fanbase with great records and constant touring.
Back to the show...just before 10 PM ET, the band hits the stage, bringing with them the peak of pre-show excitement. It's not something that can be explained, you have to feel this one for yourself. Again, because this was my first show post-pandemic, the excitement was even higher than usual.
The Menzingers opened their set with the energetic "Strangers Forever" off of Hello Exile (2019).
"But my miserable memory is making me more miserable My mundane mind is waiting on some kind of miracle, oh, oh
Maybe it's for the better we both stay strangers forever Maybe it's for the best we pretend like we never met Forget everything that we've ever known Maybe it's for the better we both stay strangers forever" - Strangers Forever
"Strangers Forever" is one of my favorite songs off the record so the fact that they opened with it set the tone for what was to come. The setlist was a mix of new and old and each song was greeted with adoration from the packed house. From the looks of it, this show could've been from the mid-90s (albeit not with the same band as they didn't exist yet) as there were crowd surfers galore throughout the show.
Photo courtesy of the author
In all, The Menzingers played 21 songs, and the band's performance and sound were completely on point. The sound at The Starland Ballroom is always very good but it sounded extra crisp on this night.
Tracks such as "Tellin' Lies", "Strain Your Memory", and "Your Wild Years", were outstanding. The band had a playful interaction with the crowd throughout and seemed to feed off the energy hurled up onto the stage with each passing song.
A few personal favorites were "Anna", "America (You're Freaking Me Out", "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore", and "After The Party".
When you see a band as tight and road-tested as The Menzingers are, you know you're getting a killer show. What makes it even more special is when the company you're with and the 2,000 plus "friends" in attendance all vibe in the same you do. Throw in the fact that you haven't seen live music in nearly two years and it's easy to understand why this show, on this night, was exactly what I needed to rejoin music the way it's meant to be...LIVE!