Homegrown rockers: Pennsylvania punk band Menzingers to finally play Altoona

Punk rockers The Menzingers are a homegrown Pennsylvania band – founded in Scranton and grown in Philadelphia – but they’ve somehow missed Altoona in the past.

“We’ve never played in Altoona,” said Tom May, guitarist and singer for the band, in a recent interview. “We’ve played most places in Pennsylvania, but we’ve never played Erie, and we’ve never played Altoona and some of the places around Altoona.”

An oversight they’re soon to correct.

Coming off of critical acclaim for their last album, the Epitaph Records artists will perform at 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Archway Center, 401 Fifth Ave., Altoona. The opening acts for the show, promoted by local company AnEmergencyScene, will be Nobody’s Heroes, Lose the Name, The Company You Keep and Scrap Kids.

The show is certainly a smaller one for the growing band, who last performed in the area in January 2012 as an opening act for Rise Against at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park.

“We’ve played in front of 9,000 people, and we’ve played in front of 10 people,” May said. “It’s definitely a more intimate show, [so] we can have fun and do whatever we want. There’s a lot more energy involved, too [with a smaller crowd].”

The Menzingers were founded in the mid-2000s by May, Greg Barnett, Eric Keen and Joe Godino of Scranton.

“We started coming from other bands in Scranton after we graduated high school,” May said. “We started taking it more seriously and moved to Philadelphia about four or five years ago, and everything moved on from there.”

From the beginning, the band was influenced by old school punk, rather than the more pop-sounding “punk” dominating the radio at the time.

“Mostly when we started, I had just gotten into the Clash, a more political kind of band,” May said. “We kind of got into folk rock for a while – we used to be way more acoustic driven. We listen to everything these days.”

The older influences and influences from other genres have given The Menzingers a unique sound.

“We don’t play fast beats very often, we’re more mid-tempo,” May said. “Our sound is more influenced by older bands, and we keep coming across other bands that we hadn’t heard before.”

As for the content of their music, May says they’ve long left behind the political topics of the Clash-like days.

“[Philadelphia] had a big influence on us, I guess the scene there, hanging around with all those bands down there,” he said. “But a lot of the stuff that we write about is more stuff that’s heavily influenced by growing up in Scranton.”

In 2011, The Menzingers signed with Epitaph, a punk label founded by Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz and co-owned by Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. The group’s debut for Epitaph, 2012’s “On the Impossible Past,” was a big hit with critics and has an average rating of 93 out of 100 on review aggregator site Metacritic. com.

“They’re doing really well right now,” said Ryan Wapner, founder and promoter for AnEmergencyScene. “Most [music] websites do end-of-the-year lists of top records and their last record, ‘On the Impossible Past,’ was like Top 5 on most of the sites I went to.”

It’s acclaim that the young band – the oldest member is 26 and the youngest is 24 – is happy to accept.

“We’re definitely really happy with where we are,” May said. “We had a new record label, and a lot more resources [for the album]. There’s a lot more people coming out to see us and we’re doing more support tours.”

The Altoona stop is near the end of a long nationwide tour, and the band plans to take time off after the tour to write their next record.

According to Wapner, local fans are thrilled that before that break The Menzingers will finally play Altoona.

“Kids are really excited,” he said. “It’s going to be a little bit of a different crowd, I think. A bit more eclectic, because they do have their hands in a couple of different genres.”

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.