The Menzingers

support The Arteries + Trevolt + Andrew Cream
author TL date 27/07/13 venue Underwerket, Valby, DEN

I'm on the bus on the way to the Underwerket, slightly delayed because I decided to pour a glass of wine all over myself just before leaving and our photographer Peter calls me up; "Tim, are you here soon? There's only 20 tickets left!". There's more to the conversation, but I can't hear it over the sound of my heart pounding. Underwerket has strict principles of fairness, so I already know that there's no way of persuading anybody there to hold a ticket for me, and while I've never had this problem there before, I suddenly feel like a complete idiot for not considering that it might happen for The Menzingers, who did after all release the single best record of 2012, strides ahead of the nearest competitors. The sighs of relief are hence great when PP and I arrive almost simultaneously and purchase the seventh and sixth last stamps on our hands, with barely enough time to pick up a couple of beers and express our sympathies to those that arrive after us, before the first act of the evening comes on.

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Andrew Cream

The first name of the evening is British punk-rock songwriter Andrew Cream, who's playing Frank Turner style, appearing solo with only his acoustic guitar to back him up. It is indeed hard not to instantly compare him to Turner then, but comparatively his songs soon reveal to be lighter, brighter and a little smoother in terms of vocal deliver. Cream shows off an expert's knack for varying his strums to keep his songs dynamic, and he proves to know his way around both phrases and melodies as well, judging from how I quickly find myself singing along to his songs by the time their second chorus comes around.

The clear downside to Cream's performance is that while he sings proficiently enough, his voice lacks the character to really lift his four-chorded acoustics up to where they's appear as something out of the ordinary, but apart from that, his songs are engaging and he sings them with solid enunciation, prompting a decent number of Underwerket's patrons to venture down in the heat of the cellar this early, and to reward Cream's effort with grateful applause. A verdict then? It might not be special, but it's damn hard not to like.

7

Trevolt

After a breather outside, the next act on stage is Swedish trio Trevolt, whose name I'm guessing is a wordplay on the Swedish word for three (tre) and revolt and who play what they call 'trallpunk', which supposedly means punk that it's easy to sing "tralalala" to. What it sounds like to me is a mix of fast, old Millencolin and Billy Talent. Similarly to the latter of the two, there are some cool signature riffs to be heard, most often in the beginning or bridge-sections of the band's songs, while the main verses and choruses often descend into straight-up skate-punk played at breakneck pace, while the bassist and the guitarist take turns at singing out Swedish lyrics in voices that sound younger than either of them look.

This goes down well with the substantial Swedish expedition that's ventured across the Øresund Bridge, with a few breaking out some moves and trying to shout along, creating a bit of moving room in front of the stage. There's a good energy in the room, but a mix of terribly enunciated vocals and the fact that I can hardly understand a word of Swedish even when it's not yelped at punk-rock speed, means that I'm left to find something to take away from the band's instrumental side. And here I can't help but to feel that the band spends too little time building on its good riffs and too much on playing the generic, chord-based skate-punk, with the songs blurring together and with not really making a connection with anybody but their countrymen (or trying to). So the set's not bad, but it does end up my least favourite of the night.

The Arteries

The last support band of the evening is Swansea-group The Arteries, whose name I've heard yet not their music. They serve up another course of hi-octane, melodic punk-rock however, sharply contrasting Trevolt with their increased movement, extremely high lead vocals and wider audience appeal. The singer, bassist and guitarist are considerably more animated, stepping back and forth while rocking out and prompting increased movement from the audience as well. The heat is starting to become a factor as well, and shirts a shirt or two come off, while the people dancing and fist-pumping and singing along up front are getting so wild that the speaker stacks in front of the stage are in danger of being knocked over on a few occasions.

Still, while The Arteries emit more charisma and dynamicity than Trevolt, and while they elicit a better response from the audience, they still suffer from a problem in their vocals coming through in a piercing high-pitched stream that is nigh on incomprehensible. It makes it difficult to say the least, trying to connect with any of their songs as a new listener. Effectively, the people in the know are plainly having themselves a blast, reflecting the band's wave-movements and converging on the edge of the stage to meet them in passionate shout-alongs, but the rest of us have to settle for watching what is clearly a good punk-rock show from a distance where you still feel a little bit excluded.

The Menzingers

I'm well aware that The Menzingers are by no stretch a big band in these parts, but still, knowing just how good "On The Impossible Past" (and predecessor "Chamberlain Waits" for the matter) is, it's been hard to not lick ones lips in anticipation of seeing the band in Underwerket's extremely intimate basement, and so when the band starts its soundcheck and the circa 70 firstcomes already start to pack into the now sauna-like venue, all anxious smiles and plastic pints in hand, the excitement is almost palpable. The feeling of people wanting this to happen is so intense that I wonder if the band isn't feeling a bit pressured to get started.

The band starts strumming though, and the opening notes of "Obituaries" kick off what is.. Well it isn't really a perfect show, is it? It's hard to hear just how good The Menzingers sound tonight, over the roomful of people yelling the lyrics like their lives depended on it, one of the cymbal stands breaks repeatedly, causing a few unintended pauses between songs, and I'm sure some of the people near the back have a hard time actually seeing the relatively short Americans in the band over the growing throng of tall, shirtless dudes that are busily losing their shit, rocking into each other and spilling onto the stage only to come diving back out and get carried a few rows back before being let down back to the action.

Those 'flaws' merely put the near in near-perfect however, because what is happening here is clearly special for Denmark, even if youtube clips will reveal that it's not so special for a Menzingers show. Songs from both "On The Impossible Past" and "Chamberlain Waits" come off the setlist with little to no variation in crowd response, as people from front to back are smiling widely and excitedly while roaring back the lyrics at the top of their lungs. A particularly drunk guest finds himself on stage and for some reason decides to do pushups, which prompts one of the band's singer/guitarists Tom May to lie down on his back while playing guitar, laughing wildly as the weight becomes too much for his fan to handle. Meanwhile, most of the guys that find their way on stage come sailing out on top of the others, and by now, half the venue is shirtless and drenched in beer and sweat, and Peter reports to me that it's so warm in here that his lens is getting so foggy he can't shoot any more pictures.

Some guy takes an elbow to the face and is suddenly bleeding from a split nose, prompting The Menzingers to wisely take a break in "Gates" to ensure that he's okay. It does little however, to still a venue that is positively boiling as people struggle to draw breath, not for the air but to be able to sing the next line, and it feels like we're all melting together with the band's immersive storytelling. The whole raging, all-out exertion is meant to end with "Irish Goodbyes" after one of the most intense hours of this scribe's life, but it can't because as the band is putting down their instruments while breathing heavily, half the venue starts singing "I remembeeeeer you we-ee-eell", reciting the opening lyrics to "Sun Hotel" which the band then resigns to playing in a final explosion that relieves the very last drops of exhilaration in especially the fans that have seen the setlist in advance and tried to accept that this song wouldn't get played.

As the proceedings inevitably come to a prompt, completely exhausted halt, people spill into the night, squeezing sweat and beer out of their shirts and rummaging in their wallets hoping to find sufficient cash to exchange for vinyls and dry threads. The mood is of the rare, rare kind where you recognize the same feeling in every gaze you meet: "Hot damn, were we really just a part of that? HOW AMAZING WAS THAT?". The answer has already been provided though: It was near-perfect. It was the kind of basement show that's helps to sustain all the wildly romantic notions underground music fans have about intensely intimate basement shows, and I count myself extremely fortunate that I made it in time to see it.

Setlist:

  • Obituaries
  • I Can't Seem To Tell
  • I Was Born
  • Good Things
  • Ava House
  • So It Goes
  • Burn After Reading
  • Sunday Morning
  • Who's Your Partner?
  • Mexican Guitars
  • On The Impossible Past
  • Nice Things
  • Gates
  • Irish Goodbyes

- Encore -

  • Sun Hotel

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