How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was good, thanks for asking. But come Saturday night, it was time to step out, skip watching football games, and go see some live music. And luckily the pride of Scranton, the Menzingers, were heading up a triple bill at Union Transfer. Perfect!
For those not in Philly, Saturday night was foul. We got a couple of inches of rain and it was chilly out. But you don’t shovel rain, right? That’s the BRP spirit – always silver lining it – hahaha. But the truly great part was that we drove to Philly in a deluge, but found a close parking space, and then got inside and grabbed a great spot near the front left of the stage, maybe 6 or 7 rows back. I knew this would be a heavy moshing show, and while I used to like to mix it up in the pit, I’m getting too old for that stuff, Getting away from the front/middle of the stage is key to avoiding the worst of the moshing. But there are times when some socially acceptable random violence against strangers is still OK by me, including Saturday night. More on that below.
I told you that this was a triple bill, and the first two bands were both punk acts in line with the Menzingers. The first opener was called Daddy Issues, and was an all-female trio. I thought their name was funny, and they had some catchy, pop-punk songs that made their set enjoyable. The drums and bass could use some more rehearsal time to tighten up – it’s kind of problematic for a rhythm section not to be fully in sync especially when it’s 2/3 of the band – but that’s an issue that can be resolved easily enough. In fact, for me personally, it’s super easy to solve. Here it is: “go practice, ladies!” – and, voila, problem solved for BRP.
The second band was called Tiny Moving Parts. I was not familiar with them, but there was a hard core group of about 75 or so who were not only familiar with TMP, but knew the words to every song. It’s a little unusual for an opener to have such a following, and that made me hopeful. Alas, my hopes were dashed. TMP is nothing if not enthusiastic (the lead singer/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen, is very energetic on stage), and I think that they are all talented musicians, but man, their songs were cacophonic, lacking melody and structure, and seemingly were designed to be three guys each doing their own thing and occasionally circling back to play together. The drummer reminded me of an out-of-control Keith Moon (how’s that for a description?), just pounding away and not really forming the backbeat for the rest of the band. And while their cadre of fans seemed to enjoy the hell out of their set, singing along and moshing, I couldn’t wait for them to get their gear off stage and get the hell out of Philly. Otherwise, they were fine.
Finally, the Menzingers took the stage. Ryan and I had seen them before at the Queen in Wilmington, and we knew what to expect. They are pop-punk in the best sense, playing great tunes that you can sing along with, and interacting positively with the crowd – last time we saw them, they brought up a couple on stage and the dude proposed to his girlfriend. And we knew that they have a very devoted following. I don’t know how hundreds of people find the time to memorize the words to every song, but rest assured that America is not solely the land of overworked puritanical grinds. There are those who devote their full time and attention to drinking beer, smoking weed and memorizing lyrics to songs by the Menzingers. China, beware, you are forewarned.
Anyway, I really like the Menzingers. They are a local band in the sense that they dusted Scranton off their feet about 10 years ago and moved to Philly where they now hang their cleats. So they aren’t Kurt Vile, born and reared within the city limits, but we’ll take them as a positive inflow to the musical scene of Philly.
Being thus local, the place was sold out and hopping. Have you noticed that Union Transfer can move its stage and make for more floor space? Well, it’s true, and on this night, they had the stage pushed back as far as possible to maximize the floor space. There were lots of people ready to party and have a good time.
I already told you that we had a great spot off to the side of the stage. Good sightlines, and close enough to see exactly what was happening up there. We were also close enough to see the large amount of crowd surfing that was taking place about 15 feet from us. I noticed that it was basically the same people going up, over and over again. The crowd shoved them to the front of the stage where three piped bouncers safely caught them and got their feet back on the ground (except for one guy who wasn’t pushed front and center and was basically tossed from head height to the soft concrete floor and emerged about 10 seconds later looking dazed – I don’t know if he was truly hurt, but in the law, this is called “assuming the risk” and my tiny little black heart had zero sympathy for the dude).
Anyway, the crowd surfers all emerged from the front of the stage and came right by Ryan and me before they pushed their way back into the mosh pit. Most just went on by, no biggie, but one dude kept pushing, shoving and elbowing both of us as he went by. Hey, dude, we moved out of the way to avoid that crap! Anyway, we watched for when he came by the next time, and both gave him a socially acceptable random act of violence, aka, we both elbowed and nailed the hell out of him, and then he stopped with that b.s. Problem solved! In the law, that’s called “self-help.”
Oh, and the other great thing about our location was that the parents of the year decided to bring their 6 or 7 year old to the show with them, and stood right by us. In fairness, they did put earphones on him. That being said, the Menzingers didn’t come on stage until after 10, and it was a punk show with copious flows of alcohol, lots of f-bombs coming from the stage, and other “adults only” kinds of things happening. The kid has plenty of times to veer into social deviance when he gets to be a teenager – no need to give him a 10 year head start compared to his peers. I hope he was cranky and a brat the entire next day.
Hey, did I mention that the Menzingers were playing? Yeah, they came out and immediately ripped into After the Party, a crowd-pleaser (and BRP fave) that set the tone: we are going to have fun. The band played a ton of their best tunes, including House on Fire, I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, Your Wild Years, etc., and they never really slowed the pace down. The crowd loved it. The last song, Telling Lies, could be an arena-rock special, with parts where you can pump your fist and other parts where you can sing “oh oooooh” and we did just that. It was a great way to finish.
The band was clearly enjoying themselves up there. Greg Barnett, the southpaw guitarist and singer, was smiling throughout the show, and Tom May, the other dude on guitars, is like the Energizer bunny bouncing and jamming. Joe Godino on drums and Eric Keen on bass are a tight rhythm section that drive the songs forward. The band played a little over an hour and a half, which ain’t great, but it’s a full-on onslaught and there is a lot of energy expended. Money well spent? Hells yes! In the words of Radnor News, a good time was had by all (except, perhaps, that one crowd surfer).
Onward and upward. Next up, it’s another road trip to see a HUGE act, and then it’s back to Philly to close out the year with some great pre-Christmas extravaganzas. Here at BRP, we’ll also be digging in to the important question of what bands did I wish I had seen, wished I hadn’t seen, or otherwise. Just remember, you’re not too old to go have some fun in the clubs. Rock on, my good friends, and keep checking back for more great stuff. And I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.