Artists: The Menzingers, Oso Oso, Sincere Engineer
Venue: The Roxy
Date: April 23, 2022
Despite an unfortunately shortened set, The Menzingers still brought a fire to The Roxy last Saturday night that will not be forgotten.
Chicago punks Sincere Engineer opened the show, showing off a tighter set than when I saw them last opening for Hot Mulligan. Though frontwoman Deanna Belos’ razing vocals will likely never appeal to those who prefer more pop in their punk, there are certainly plenty of infectious earworm moments in songs like the urgent call for help “Trust Me“, and the crowd pleaser “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7“. And even though I’m not overly familiar with their music, I was soon singing along to the excellent “Overbite“. Sincere Engineer are definitely one of those bands where it pays to know their music before hand, since their songs are so lyrically-driven, and makes the live experience of singing them back all the more rewarding.
Next up were New York’s Oso Oso, who have been critically hailed and buzzed about the last couple years. I will admit that their brand of emo/power pop, which recalls early 00’s bands like Ozma and The Promise Ring, has never really connected with me personally, but I tried to set aside my earlier impressions of the band before their set began. I will say that there were moments during the set where the music hit some emotional notes I enjoyed, but the overall combination of frontman Jade Lilitri’s semi-sweet vocals and lean-back indie compositions just didn’t resonate with me ultimately. That doesn’t mean the rest of the audience agreed with me – there were a number of very invested fans in the audience, including a few who started a mini skank-mosh pit. One of my friends in attendance was a huge fan (and as she later told me, a die-hard Ozma fan as well, haha).
One perhaps superficial criticism I feel I have to voice is that the group had no cohesive visual identity on stage. While the band is primarily Lilitri’s project, and he and his lead guitarist came dressed with some sense of style, it felt like they were trying out for Portugal. The Man, while the rest of the band were auditioning to be in Bowling for Soup. As much as the music is the most important part of a band, coming dressed for the part does have an impact on a group’s stage presentation, and it may behoove Lilitri to think about how he would like his group’s appearance to reflect the project for future live shows.
The Menzingers were meant to come on at 10:30pm, and as it hit 10:50pm with no sign of the band, there were definitely some worries. West Hollywood has a strict midnight curfew, so every. minute that passed without the band meant a shorter set. When the curtains finally rose at 10:55pm, the band wasted no time in launching into their energetic set. Opening with the excellent “Strangers Forever” (a personal favorite), the audience’s fervor went right to eleven.
Vocal duties were split fairly evenly between Greg and Tom throughout the evening, with both singers inspiring the audience to sing back every word. Second song “Telling Lies” got the first mosh pit started, and the bombastic self-flagellation of “Obituaries” inspired a massive sing-along. The band’s playing was precise, and Tom roamed the stage with a joyous energy and great crowd interaction.
Other highlights of the set were “Your Wild Years”, the nostalgic, lovelorn “Anna” and the betterment anthem “I Don’t Want to be An Asshole Anymore”. After the melancholic punk of “After the Party”, the group left the stage, only to quickly return for the encore, as it was nearing midnight. At this time, Greg apologized for their lateness to the stage that evening, and bravely admitted that he had suffered a near “mental health breakdown” before they played, and he warmly thanked his bandmates for helping him through it so they could play that night.
Though I was still disappointed that we lost a couple songs from the setlist that night (one of which I learned was likely “Lookers”, one of my favorites), I have immense respect for Greg for admitting what happened and the love he gave to his friends for helping him through. These aren’t easy things to speak publicly about, especially to an audience hungry for your music, but the crowd seemed more than up to forgiving him, as the band finished their set with “In Remission”. They then hurried off as the crowd left the venue.
Hopefully the next time I’m able to see The Menzingers, it’s for a full-length set, as they are an incredible live act and songwriters, and definitely worth seeing in the flesh. If you’re not familiar with them, start listening to their tunes here.