Northeastern Pennsylvania has very little to brag about. Besides Lion’s Head and Yuengling, the most famous export are fictitious characters on a TV show. One of the few highlights of living in Wilkes-Barre the past five years for me has been the ability to see the Menzingers blossom from local opener into a legitimate band. They’d played headlining gigs at Café Metropolis before, but it was more common to catch them opening up for bands such as the Gaslight Anthem or Smoke or Fire. For their EP release show, they filled the headline shoes well, outshining friends from the next time zone over, the Copyrights and Dear Landlord.
After a short set from Scranton’s the High Lites, Dear Landlord took the stage. “Hi, we’re Dear Landlord, from Minneapolis,” was all they said before jumping into “High Fives” and a number of other songs off their upcoming full-length. The set consisted of mostly songs off Dream Homes, but I was glad to hear “Crashing,” from their split with Off with Their Heads. During one song, Brett broke not one but two strings on his guitar, but still finished the song. Unfortunately, most of the crowd seemed unfazed by this. At the end of the set, the band thanked the crowd and cracked a “stay around for the Copyrights, we hear they’re incredible” joke, which flew over most people’s heads.
With half the band already set up, the time between Dear Landlord and the Copyrights was pretty short. Most of the crowd was still outside smoking in the alley when the Copyrights jumped into “Planet Earth 1994.” They then played “Second Hearse Same as the First” and “57 North,” the openers of one of last year’s best pop-punk albums. The set covered the bulk of both Learn the Hard Way and Make Sound, with highlights including “Charlie Birger Time,” “Thinking with the Lights On,” and “Stuck in Summertime.” Adam asked if there were any requests, with the band agreeing to play my requests for “She Turns It Up” and “Button Smasher.” They politely declined playing one girl’s request for “Locked Outside a Motel,” saying they’d never played it live and their drummer, who was ‘on loan’ from the Arrivals, didn’t know it. After closing with “Shit’s Fucked,” they received a pretty decent reception, though it was pretty obvious who this crowd was there to see.
On the insert of their new Red Scare 7“, Hold on Dodge, there are photos of the Menzingers playing at Café Metro, kids climbing over each other, screaming the words along with the band. Sure, the sight is common at hometown shows, but you would have thought they were taken that Saturday, not months before. As soon as they took the stage, they ripped into “Sunday Morning,” with the majority of the audience already knowing the words. “A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology” brought about one of the wildest receptions I’ve seen from the song over the years. The spot-on cover of “Straight to Hell” kept the crowd going. They did a good job of mixing in the other songs off Hold on Dodge with some favorites, including “Richard Courey,” “Sir Yes Sir” and “Victory Gin.” After a quick 40-minute set, the band announced “Alpha Kappa Fall Off a Balcony” would be their final song, with the near-capacity crowd of around 100 shouting closing lines, “Don’t you raise your voice to me!” so loud, they could probably be heard 15 minutes up the road in Scranton. The highlight of the night came during the encore, which was another spot-on cover, “Knowledge.” I know it’s one of the most covered songs in the scene, but they were able to make it their own.
I wish more people had been into Dear Landlord and the Copyrights, but this was the same crowd that pretty much stood still for Off with Their Heads’ set last fall, so I’m just going to guess the rest of NEPA isn’t ready for Midwest punk quite yet. With Hold on Dodge being some of the best material they’ve written, the rest of the country should be ready for the Menzingers. Toby knew what he was doing with these guys.