The Menzingers / Tigers Jaw / Nai Harvest @ The Cockpit, Leeds – 06/08/13
Potentially due to it being a dry period for touring bands passing through Leeds, this show had been sold out for a while and felt like quite a prestigious event. The kind of hype that’s authentic; of genuine anticipation seemed to be present throughout the night; from support bands taking the stage to each and every nuance and launch into song during the headlining set from The Menzingers.
What made this show stand out was how well every aspect worked. The supporting bands weren’t too similar to the headliner and also importantly weren’t bad, which can, if is ever the case, make summertime shows in warm spaces a bit of a drag. Following on from the supporting cast of South Yorkshire emo-revival duo Nai Harvest and fellow Pennsylvanians Tigers Jaw were a band really driving at what they’re great at.
Tigers Jaw are a band that I’ve previously been reasonably unfamiliar with aside from being played a track or two by friends over recent years. Having always known the name it’s clear they’re a band that mean a lot to many, so aware that they’ve to release a final album after this, their final international tour made their performance feel distinctive before they even took the stage. With at least a third of this reasonably large room making it clear they’re very committed Tigers Jaw fans, it was interesting to see the reaction of others as several tracks were loudly sung along to. The band sound nothing like The Menzingers but though their songs don’t build in the same fashion as many of their headliners’ efforts do, they’re played well and are short enough to not fully lose the interest. I do find it strange that this Pennsylvania act who’s objective to announce a split, tour then release an album sounds quite routed, almost like an ambition to end in this way that was conceived before things naturally fell apart, if that makes sense. It was also pretty quirky to see once-celebrated comic entertainer Tom Green playing as one of Tigers Jaw’s vocalists.
This was a show that celebrated a successful album cycle where the melodic punk band from Pennsylvania have made their name familiar to more than just the committed punk fan and it’s apparent that building a familiar foundation is a skill the band have mastered, with the acquaintance between the fans and the band evident tonight in the relationship both parties share through the songs.
Emotive refrains are a huge part of The Menzingers’ offering and on tracks like ‘Nice Things’, the crowd’s efforts appear to delight the band members to the extent they loosen up to the point of theatricality. As the show swings along with such a sense of shared enjoyment, the band keep the pace as they drive through tracks from all releases. It’s no surprise to see stage dives throughout, though the crowd are most hungry to be seen and heard when the solidly favoured tracks from second album Chamberlain Waits are played such as ‘I Was Born’ and ‘Time Tables’. The omission of another favourite from this period, ‘Home Outgrown’ shows just how much this band have developed as they’re everything but a band reliant on one or two big tracks.
The vocal talents of Greg Barnett introduce songs the crowd have supported during a period of time when his band have transformed in stature but evidently not lost any humility. Happy to see fans as friends, a cover of The Lawrence Arms’ ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ is dedicated to some long-term supporters and is received enthusiastically. Swathes of the crowd are very much familiar with almost all of The Menzingers’ material so there aren’t really any lull moments. The cover of Operation Ivy’s Nothing doesn’t really serve as a welcome break to the melodic charms though and feels somewhat unwarranted, though saying this, it’s played out in such a fun manner that it’s evident members of the audience unfamiliar with the track enjoy seeing the band frolic around with a genre classic. I do feel that when judged from a live perspective, The Menzingers would struggle to convert or capture a fan of a more aggressive punk genre. I may be wrong but I can imagine a hardcore fan feeling that the songs take a while to get going, perhaps ignoring the subtleties of the riffs and the nuances such as long-held notes tracks like ‘I Was Born’ are reliant on.
This is, without a doubt, a big show for this band. In the wider scheme of things, The Cockpit is quite an intimate venue though and this feel is intact throughout thanks to how well the songs work when played by a band so ardently on form, figuring out excitedly how they’ll build on where they’ve gotten. It’s likely they’ll struggle to be ignored by the casual Springsteen or maybe even The Killers fan given their ability to enhance their already charming music when performed live. Perhaps this is the next challenge for The Menzingers as all the familiarity of giving back to a fan base that have supported them throughout this album cycle and before will now need to be channelled into taking it beyond the rock and roll venues and out into mixed use arenas.