By Alex Platt
“Oi, nah nah, no mate, sorry, no. You can’t stand there”
“No, no way mate, not there”
I’m standing inside KoKo in Mornington Crescent, towards the back of the lower level opposite the stage. The man shouting at me is, quite evidently, not having a good time.
“I’m sorry mate, but actually I can stand where I want?”
“No way, not there. Look at you then look at me, nah”
Admittedly, he is somewhat on the short side. Not tiny, but lets just say I could quite happily rest my chin on the top of his head, should the mood take me (I’m 6′ 2/3” last time I checked, if that gives you any indication). I’d moved in front of him to try and make my way closer to the front and I’d just stopped to look back and make sure my friends are still with me, and now I’ve got to deal with a small, angry man barking in my face. I sort of want to stay here now, just to annoy him more.
“I’m sorry, but it’s not actually my fault I’m taller than you. I can stand where I want?”
“How the fuck am I supposed to see them then eh?”
“Have you thought about not standing at the back…?”
At this sarcastic comment he actually reaches out and grabs my arm, trying to physically push me out of the way. I’m not really sure how to deal with this. I don’t want to cause a scene (and lord knows I’ve caused a fair few before) as I’m here to see one of my favourite bands of all time, The Menzingers. This’ll be the first time seeing them since the release of their fantastic album ‘After The Party’ earlier this year, and I’m not going to have this indignant little twit ruin it for.
“Please don’t push me mate, that’s not a fight you’re going to win. Look at me and look at you. I’ll try and move, but maybe you should move forward eh?” “I was happy here and now I can’t fucking see because of you”
I sigh deeply. The venue is absolutely packed out and there is very little room for movement. I cast a look around to see if there’s anywhere else I can fit into, but I’m not a small man, and it’s not looking likely. I turn to my friends and they just shrug and laugh. Fuck this I think, and root myself to the spot. I can still hear the small chap ranting and raving about me behind me but also, to be fair pal, realistically, not taking the piss or anything, but like, there are THREE FUCKING FLOORS IN THIS VENUE IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE BAND WHY DON’T YOU, OH I DON’T KNOW, GO TO THE NEXT FLOOR UP. JUST A THOUGHT.
There’s a weird vibe here inside KOKO tonight, I’m not quite sure what’s going on. I like to think it’s because everyone is as excited as me, and that excitement is spilling out of them like last night’s kebab on a groggy, hungover Sunday morning. As we’re waiting for our friend to use the toilet, a man sidles up to us to ask us how our nights going lads yeah you alright you having a good time right yeah nice ones boys yeah yeah and we politely reply and try to edge away but he’s not QUITE getting the hint so we tell him we’re not waiting for the toilet and he replies that he isn’t either then he utters the immortal dealer line “You boys need anything?” and we shake our heads and offer our excuses (it’s a booze only night for us) but then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small tin and shows us it’s contents. It looks like several small cut up tea bags in there. He plucks one out and pushes it into the top of his mouth between lip and gum, nods and saunters away. We spend the next five minutes trying to figure out just what the actual fuck we saw (you know that blonde man blinking meme? Yeah, that was us). We come to the conclusion it was snuff (you know, like what cowboys used to take). We’ve literally no idea what else it could’ve been. We head to the bar still trying to wrap our minds around it but alas, it’s just not happening. The bar is packed out, at least 6 deep. We squirm our way through and eventually, somehow, make it to the front. One of my friends is standing behind one of those annoying couples that have to show everyone how in love with each other they are and how much they mean to each other and how they can’t keep their hands off each other WHILE THEY ALREADY HAVE DRINKS like OK yeah fine we get it it’s really cute but also please move out of the way as we’re all thirsty and trying not to succumb to the temptation of…snuff. As they move out of the way, the boy grabs at the girl and she drops her drink, all onto my friend’s t-shirt. I wish I could say it was only a little bit of a spillage, but the lower half of his t-shirt is shipwreck wet. It’s not been a great start for us.
“The music fades out, the house lights dim, The Menzingers take to the stage and chaos breaks out in KoKo”
Anyway, back in the crowd after my little (badum-tish) disagreement with the man behind me the energy is electric. Everyone is ready for this. I am INCREDIBLY ready for this. The music fades out, the house lights dim, The Menzingers take to the stage and chaos breaks out in KoKo. Bursting straight into ‘Tellin’ Lies‘, the opening track of ‘After The Party’, every single person in there is bellowing along with them. Up on stage they look like they’re having an absolute ball. It’s an incredible atmosphere to be a part of. After that they fly into ‘I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore’ from ‘Rented World‘, and it’s amazing.
The Menzingers play a mix of songs from their three most well known albums (‘On The Impossible Past’ is the only one I haven’t mentioned so far, but my god every song from it is a blast of nostalgia) and it is a near faultless set. Technically, it’s brilliant. There’s no equipment malfunctions, not notes missed, it’s all perfect. ‘Midwestern States’ from ATP gets a huge reaction (although it could’ve just been from me to be fair). After that they play ‘Irish Goodbyes’, which is a super old song (but still everyone knows it) before playing two songs from ‘Rented World’.
I’ve loved The Menzingers for a very very long time, ever since a friend (the very same one who got his t-shirt wet earlier, if you remember dear reader) introduced me to ‘On The Impossible Past‘. Since then I’ve been a huge fan, eagerly grabbing up absolutely anything of theirs I could get my ears on. For the next ten songs, The Menzingers play absolute banger after absolute banger. TEN SONGS. In a row. Actual shivers down my spine. They start with the title track of ATP which gets an immense reaction (the recently put out a video to this song which is absolutely heart-breaking I suggest you all go and watch it). The crowd goes insane and everyone is jumping and bouncing and ‘moshing’ (it’s pushing, really) and there’s a grin on every face (although I can’t imagine how my small friend must have felt with all the jumping, bless him). They tear through a version of ‘House On Fire’ from ATP before the opening chords of ‘The Obituaries’ snake out into the crowd and I absolutely lose my complete shit. You can see the looks on each of the band members faces as they stare out into this adoring crowd, and we are completely enraptured back at them. The final lines of “I WILL FUCK THIS UP, I FUCKING KNOW IT” are bellowed around the venue so loudly I’m pretty sure people on the underground tubes travelling below us can hear it. ‘Ava House’ follows, which doesn’t have quite the same momentum but the crowd is still rolled up. Then they play ‘Your Wild Years’ and…right, OK, I’m… I’m just going to take a step back from the keyboard for a second. Bare with me…
“There’s no equipment malfunctions, not notes missed, it’s all perfect”
OK. I’m sorry, I had to just sit in silence for a full 5 minutes and remember every little detail of that particular performance. Of the whole of ATP, that song is my favourite. It may even be my absolute favourite Menzingers song of all time. Before tonight, I’d had a quick look at some of their recent setlists and my heart broke a little bit when I saw that that song wasn’t included. But here it is, being played to me, by the band itself. I have no shame in telling you I sang my absolute heart out. I felt my eyes get a little bit warm at one point, my friend throwing his arm around my shoulder and bellowing along with me. ‘Gates and Bad Catholics’ follow that, but I am already in absolute heaven by then. They leave the stage but EVERYONE knows there’s an encore, there’s no way there couldn’t be. They come back and start their encore with ‘Lookers’. I throw all caution to the wind and hurl myself into the pit and push and shove in happiness along with everyone else. I make my way to the very front and start taking a few snaps on my phone before it is whacked out of my hand behind the barrier in front of me. I’m in a panic but I see one of the bouncers bend down and, I assume, pick it up. I stare straight at him, desperately trying to get his attention. Our eyes meet and I make a phone symbol with my hand, he nods and hands it back over, completely intact, not even a cracked screen! WHAT A TRULY GLORIOUS NIGHT THIS IS! The Menzingers follow Lookers with the absolute belter ‘Casey’, from OTIP. I make my way back to my friends and I think you know the drill by now, more shoulder hugs and sing-a-longs (at one point I genuinely think I’ve torn something in my throat) and ecstasy. The Menzingers end their incredible set with In Remission, which isn’t one of my favourite but at this point I couldn’t care less, it’s all unbelievably amazing.
We make our way out of the venue and into Camden for more drinking, for more talking about the band, for more moments of pure, unabashed joy and I’m happy to say that feeling still hasn’t left me.