Of course, I know that “I love punk rock” is the least punk rock thing a person could possibly say, but as I left the Magic Stick after a sold-out Menzingers show over Spring Break, I just had to let out that exclamation — as corny as it is.
My friend and I were leaving with, between us, two pairs of sore feet, a bloody lip, broken glasses, sweat-soaked clothes and a passionate yearning for a glass of water. We thought of all these as badges of honor: Proof that we had seen a perfect show.
And it was perfect — physically draining, but perfect. Myself and other Daily writers have already given enough full-throated endorsements of The Menzingers, so I’ll spare you too much repetition, but these guys from Philly are now veterans of the American punk circuit, having built up a hardcore, loyal fanbase and written a full set’s worth of great songs.
At the Magic Stick, “Gates” sounded like a piece of classic American songwriting, and “Casey” brought some of the loudest screams I’ve ever heard. Meanwhile, the new songs from After the Party give you a little more room to breathe but still boast tightly written, energetic choruses and boisterous crowd responses.
That crowd — if I hadn’t seen “SOLD OUT” taped to the venue’s doors when I walked in, I would have known by how packed-together the entire room was. There were a host of different crowdsurfers for every song, jumping onstage unencumbered by security and leading the loudest singalongs. It was physical but not violent, fans crazed by their favorite song jockeyed for the closest position to the stage, causing harm more out of a lack of awareness than any ill intent. I got kicked in the face towards the end of the show, and although it wasn’t my favorite thing at the time, I can’t help but smile now when I see the mark in the mirror.
I’ve been thinking about that bloody lip of mine the past few days, and why I’m weirdly so proud of it. I’ve never been one to wear bruises proudly, like some kind of adventurer. I avoid pain as much as I can, and if you ever do see me sporting a bruise it’s much more likely that there’s an embarrassing tale of clumsiness behind it rather than an exciting story that shines a spotlight on my daring and athleticism.
Sometimes it’s hard to quantify how much a certain artist means to you. Collecting all the albums doesn’t mean as much in the age of Spotify. Discovering all the b-sides and obscurities is easier ever since Youtube. You could definitely buy a t-shirt, or some stickers, or get a signed poster. You could even get a tattoo. But the struggle of being a fan is coming to terms with always being an outsider — supporting but never really being able to make an impact on the art you love so much.
I try not to assign any kind of religious significance to music fandom, but getting to the front and shouting yourself hoarse at a show is definitely an act of devotion, maybe even a form of worship. The way people pack themselves in and struggle to get the best spot possible, the ways they dance and sweat and drain themselves over the course of the night — they’re giving everything they have to the music that they love so much, becoming part of the show as they trade stability and comfort for that life-changing chorus.
To be clear: don’t invade other people’s personal space, and please don’t use blood as a means of measuring loyalty. But just the fact that you’re willing to put yourself through the physical gauntlet of a great punk show speaks volumes about your feelings. I fucking hate to exercise, but I would have burned every calorie in my body as long as a band I loved kept playing.
The opener for The Menzingers on this tour is Jeff Rosenstock, a DIY pop-punker who sounds like a cross between Mark Hoppus and Father John Misty. Rosenstock has broken out since his recent release, Worry., yielded indie-level hits like “Festival Song” and “Wave Goodnight to Me,” and his set was an exhaustingly spectacular celebration of his newfound success. His band played for a gloriously breakneck half hour with an energy level that no headliner could pull off without collapsing onstage.
A lot of fans had come to see him, specifically, as the space in front of the stage got almost dangerously frenetic as Rosenstock screamed out his songs. While Rosenstock was exceptionally conscientious about making sure his most vulnerable fans weren’t crushed, he couldn’t hide how touched he was by this crowd’s display of passion. They weren’t just loud, but they were willing to put themselves in harm’s way just for his art. Out of all those bodies flying around this upstairs room in Midtown, nobody was literally shouting “I love punk rock,” but everyone was saying it — to each other, and to the artists.