LIVE: The Menzingers / The Smith Street Band / The Holy Mess @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Ben Tipple

It’s barely past doors when Philadelphia based punk trio The Holy Mess take to the stage in the subterranean depths of the Electric Ballroom. Tonight, they find themselves opening up one of the most exciting alternative bills to pass through the capital in some time, preceding Australian folk-punks The Smith Street Band, and the increasingly awe-inspiring The Menzingers.

Despite the relative small numbers packed towards the front of the venue, The Holy Mess hold no prisoners. They deliver an unbroken onslaught of gritty punk, borrowing from more contemporary outfits yet immediately being the most traditional on tonight’s line-up. It’s fast and relentless, perhaps at odds with the main support, but nonetheless thrilling to watch.

The Smith Street Band show themselves to be moving from strength to strength, treating the audience to a live rendition of their most recently unveiled track ‘Surrender’, from their forthcoming ‘Throw Me In The River’ full-length. Frontman Wil Wagner enthrals with an endearing awkwardness that lends itself perfectly to their story-laden melodies. Set closer and crowd pleaser ‘Young Drunk’ garners a huge reaction as the crowd bellow at the top of their voices. It’s certainly more careful and considered than the ferocious openers but lacks none of the intensity.

Headliners and underground punk heroes The Menzingers still manage to steal the show. Their set is a tale of two halves – both as breath-taking as the other. Opening with ‘I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore’, the Philadelphian four-piece pack the first half of their set with tracks from ‘Rented World’ and the seminal ‘On The Impossible Past’. There’s even the first live performance of ‘Hearts Unknown’ from their most recent album.

For newer fans, it’s hit after hit as they plough through their set, clearly thoroughly enjoying every moment. As their set continues, there’s the increasing appearance of an older track, leading to the eventual encore closer of ‘A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology’ – the title track from their 2007 debut.

There’s an obvious difference in sound between the old and new, but as with the band’s before them, their musicianship and passion remain at an all-time high. This may not be the first time that The Menzingers have passed through the nation’s capital, and it may not be the first time they have received glowing reviews, but tonight there’s no denying that they deserve it.