Saturday, March 1, 2014

Live Review: Into It. Over It., The World Is A Beautiful Place, Local 506 (2/15/14)

Photo by: Jordan Ambrose
After being released early from work on Wednesday thanks to the approaching winter storm, and then finding myself completely snowed in until the weekend, a bouncy emo show was just what I needed Saturday night, even if half of the roads were still blanketed with ice.  When I first arrived at the Local 506, ten minutes after the doors had opened, I was expecting about half of the floor to be completely empty for my taking, blissfully unaware of this tour's relevance.  Really, I had no idea these bands were as popular as they are (though, as I would later learn, much of the crowd wasn't there for the headliner at all), and found myself confined to the short corridor next to the bar for the majority of the opening set.  Who would have thought that having feelings these days would be so popular?

Chapel Hill-native openers Bats & Mice had a classic post-hardcore flare (the Fugazi kind, not the new AP kind) to them and began the show with some of the most immediate music of the night.  It was upbeat, engaging and ended at just the perfect moment in my mind, leaving all the time in the world for this stacked tour package to command the stage.  I found a spot right in front of the mixing board, and squeezed myself in for the second act.

You're Always On My Mind was one of my favorite records from last year, so naturally, Brooklyn, New York's A Great Big Pile Of Leaves was very high up on my "Bands I Need To See" list—not without concern, though, as a ridiculously off-key, lackluster Now, Now performance in March of 2013 (turns out, Cacie Dalager isn't too great at singing quietly) has, to this day, hindered my enjoyment of Threads, a Top Five Record of 2012 on my end.  Pete Weiland's sulky delivery certainly seemed destined for a similar fate.  The set-opening "Snack Attack" initially began to materialize my nightmarish  dream, as Weiland fumbled around with his nasal pipes for the first few verses, but by the song's conclusion, he had found his sweet spot and was singing at near-studio accuracy.

Guitarist Matt Fazzi, who would also be helping out Evan Weiss later in the evening, sang and spun with great energy despite his upcoming double performance, and consistently unleashed elated backup lyrics into the air, when and when not harmonizing, never missing a twinkly note.  Highlights included playing "Pizzanomics" midway through the set—an interesting early moment of peace—and the band even tinkered with swelling dynamics at the slowing conclusion (perhaps finding some influence in their tour mates' craft) and then somehow found the energy to continue with classics "We Don't Need Our Heads" and "Great Fun," both of which garnered strong crowd reactions.

As The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die began to set up, I found myself wondering just how exactly they would manage to fit their eight touring members on the stage.  The Chapel Hill venue certainly isn't the most spacious hall in the world and houses a similarly meager performance area.  Clearly not the band's first show on a small stage, though, TWIABP set up quickly, proficiently and happily.  I will never understand how bands of this size can travel together without starving or killing each other, but then again, I guess that's why I stand on the floor, and not on the stage.  A brief conversation with one of three guitarists, Chris Teti, outside in the cold after the show continued to yield no direct answers (other than his constant smile), which was implied proof that he and his musical friends are nothing more than simply very positive, agreeable people.

5.5/8 of TWIABP
"Blank #9" and "Heartbeat in the Brain" began the performance, with Josh Cyr's overwhelming bass guitar claiming the spotlight early on.  A portion of the crowd certainly cried foul at his liberal volume, but the sheer swelling power of his three-string bass powerchords at the conclusion of "Heartbeat" was more than enough to rouse much of the static audience into waves of bobbing and swaying heads.  Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak turned out to be as engaging of a one-third frontman as you can imagine, regaling us with stories of his favorite band (The White Octave), calling us all idiots for not loving said band, wishing he had a Xanax to pair with his Saturday night whiskey binge and then finally taking the brave initiative to crowdsurf during closer "Getting Sodas."  As much as I hate to acknowledge the massive hype surrounding these Connecticut  musicians, there's a reason that people talk about this band.  There's a reason that moshing broke out during multiple points.  And dammit, there's a reason that I couldn't help but sing along to "Picture of a Tree that Doesn't Look Okay."  Don't pass up an opportunity to see them while they're still in a stage of blooming.  Pretty soon, it'll be impossible to even get a ticket.

After the male Shanholtzer-Dvorak (the female counterpart was stylishly adorned with a late We Were Skeletons shirt) collected himself from the impromptu crowd sing-along and left the stage along with the rest of his band, the 506 suddenly felt a bit more spacious. Into It. Over It. certainly had a big set of shoes to fill (eight pairs' worth) at the start of their set, but proficiently managed to pull off a solid, though noticeably less memorable, performance for the remaining Chapel Hill emo enthusiasts.

Evan Weiss was having a blast, and the rest of the band seemed remarkably content as well, zestfully powering through much of the best material from Proper and the recent Intersections.  "Upstate Blues" retained much of its approachable melancholy in the live setting, and "Midnight: Carol Street" proved to be a strong, effective closer, fostering a welcomed portion of celebratory crowd vocal yearning among the remaining attendees.

Into It. Over It. is by no means a bad band, and Weiss and company certainly matched much of the immediate charisma that TWIABP possessed, though their time slot would be their ultimate hitch,  ensconcing their performance as more of an afterthought than a main course.  While Weiss' sonic contrast to the Connecticut swell made for a great foil, I left the Chapel Hill venue with Whenever, If Ever on the mind, and Intersections on the back burner.  There were no lapses in quality, no perverse mistakes from Weiss and friends, but there were additionally no palatable triumphs nor moments of serendipitous insight either.  Into It. Over It. takes the emo de rigueur prompt and runs with it, offering an appealing, but familiar aural allure that about fifty percent of the crowd would bring home to mom and the other fifty would pass up.  Matching the intensity of eight musicians with five (and really, only oneWeiss himself) is no human task, but such is the life of an emo superstar. Weiss' smile generously boasted content, which was more than enough to pull me out of any mid-state winter blues.

Bats & Mice
A Great Big Pile Of Leaves
Into It. Over It.


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