It’s been a long time since I attended a show that left me feeling battered and bruised even without going anywhere near the pit. But on Friday, Jan. 25, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing two bands I love and one band I had never heard of at a brand new venue in Cambridge, Mass. The bands? La Dispute, The Menzingers, and Alcoa. The venue? The Sinclair. The experience? Divine.
Alcoa, a side project of singer/songwriter Derek Archambault (from Defeater) that will finally see the light of a full-length album this year, opened Friday’s show with an upbeat but relaxed vibe. The audience took a while to warm up to his act, but he had the talent to back up his attempts at flirting with the crowd, and it was clear that most of us were not only into what he was doing, but paying attention — remarkable for an unknown opener in a room full of hardcore punk fans. Alcoa was significantly softer and more melodic than either of the bands it opened for, but somehow, that vibe worked well for the start of the show.
In between sets, The Sinclair played a selection of Motown classics that shouldn’t have worked, but also contributed well to the overall vibe of the evening. The music contrasted nicely with the loud, angry punk that took the stage once Alcoa said goodnight and The Menzingers took the stage instead.
Before purchasing tickets to this show, I had never heard of The Menzingers. They’ve since become one of my favorite bands to listen to when I’m pissed off or when I’m happy — the mood doesn’t matter, to be frank. And in spite of angry lyrics and a whole lot of intense yelling from the vocalists in the band, it was clear on Friday night that the boys of The Menzingers were insanely happy just to be there, let alone performing for the sold-out room. They jumped around the stage, laughed and joked with stage divers and crowd surfers, and put on such a kickass show that I was even more in love with them after the set than I was before. It was nice to see musicians that produce such loud music so clearly enjoying that creative process. The set flowed from song to song with barely a pause in between, though each pause was absolutely worth it. The pit went mad for the entirety of the set; I almost wished I’d stayed on the floor (but not really — going to bed with a broken nose has never been an experience I crave).
And then the headliner took the stage. First, let me say this: seeing La Dispute live is like getting punched in the chest repeatedly and enjoying every fucking minute of it. From the moment the members of the band took the stage, they never stopped moving, never stopped interacting with the crowd, never stopped breathing new life into lyrics I’ve memorized and loved for months on end. Watching the pit from two stories up was like watching the ocean break waves against the stage. There were crowd surfers and stage divers I came to recognize from launching into the pit so many times and every time lead singer Jordan Dreyer scissored his legs and swung his arm out, I felt like I was watching something magical unfold.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to attend a number of incredible concerts in my life, but this one is at the top of the list for best shows I’ve seen. I’m incredibly happy I opted to go and even happier that The Sinclair’s layout gave me the chance to watch the action safely from above the pit, where I could still feel the heat and the energy and the sweat and the rage without having to put my body in any potential danger. That isn’t to say that I won’t throw myself into a few more pits in my life, because I will. But some of them are just too intense for me. And considering that The Menzingers and La Dispute pretty much melted my face off from where I was standing on a balcony two floors above the stage — yeah, I can safely say I wouldn’t have made it out of that pit without some bloodshed.