It’s always nice when something lives up to expectations. This gig, with two of my favourite bands in The Flatliners and The Menzingers, was certainly one I was looking forward to a huge amount, and I’m delighted to say it more than lived up to that billing.
Firstly, apologies to The Dirty Nil. Late leaving work and then the tube travel to Koko in Camden meant I walked into the venue as the final note of their final song was ringing out across the grand interior. So, apologies guys, I’m sure you were great!
The Flatliners, though, were absolutely bloody great. Having been waxing lyrical about their new album Inviting Light to anyone who would listen, I was so, so keen to see them rattle through some of their new songs. And that they did, opening with Mammals, which allowed for a slow build-up, raising the excitement in the room notch by notch. By it’s nature, it’s a slightly more laid-back track, so the explosion as The Flatliners played straight into Caskets Full was tangible.
As ever, Caskets Full was an absolute banger, with the pure punk rock fury it delivers spewing angrily from the stage as the crowd moved and swayed around like volcanic lava. The band were note perfect, with frontman Chris dictating the crowd like a composer.
It was between Caskets Full and Sew My Mouth Shut that Chris’ screams became truly guttural. While the new album is unbelievably good, it’s arguably a bit softer and less raw, meaning that there’s not as many chances for him to roar. He’s still more than got it though, as his vocal really came from the bottom of his throat here.
There was time for another handful of songs from the new album, including Indoors which floated gloriously into the extravagant setting of Koko, Hang My Head with its indie-punk bounce, and the dallying Human Party Trick. As ever, Eulogy was delivered with vigour and energy, while closing track Tail Feathers hit the spot with it’s builds and falls. This was a near-perfect set from The Flatliners.
So, The Menzingers had quite some act to follow. And follow it they did, with one of the sets of their career. As the lights went dark and some heavy R’n’B poured from the speakers, you could feel the anticipation and the pan-crowd smile. Here is a band which, despite the melancholic nature of the lyrics, people enjoy watching; that they feel good about.
The Scranton quartet opened with a brilliant rendition of new album opener, Tellin’ Lies. For me it’s probably the best song on the album, and it was glorious here, with the chorus ringing out louder than you could imagine across the crowd, who were literally singing along with every note. It was a special thing to hear, one of those moments in which the hairs on the back of your neck just won’t lay down.
They flowed straight into I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, which again was met with much jubilation from the near-capacity crowd. The humility of the band themselves always shines through, but here it was clear that they were surprised at just how much passionate adoration the crowd had for them; and it almost appeared that they used that energy to up their game to hitherto-unreached heights. They were playing with a smile, and the crowd was smiling back at them.
With their three opening tracks coming from three separate albums (the third of which was Nice Things), the standard was established for the rest of the set. Good Things, from the same album, was an absolute highlight as they carried the crowd with them. The crashing wave of drum and guitar at the thirty second point is incredible on record, but here, it was all-encompassing and simply joyous.
Thick As Thieves, reputedly about one of the times the band has been to the UK, was preceded by Mexican Guitars; while Midwestern States was met with a great roar of excitement and appreciation from the crowd. A brilliant three track salvo followed not long after, opening with After The Party and it’s roared chorus, before flowing into another of my favourite songs from the new album in House On Fire. As the opening lyrics dropped, the whole crowd roared along once again, and if I closed my eyes I could almost visualise the first time I saw the band at FEST. This was another special moment.
Cementing their reputation as one of the best live bands on the circuit right now with a flawless rendition of The Obituaries, the last of many standout moments for me was delivered in hearing Your Wild Years live. It’s one of those songs on the new album which I always accidentally miss, but absolutely love every time I hear. Nothing was different here: this was a blinding rendition.
There’s no doubt about just how good these two bands are live. This was some gig, and one I was lucky to have been a part of.