Into It. Over It. / TWIABP / Pinegrove. Marquis Theatre. 03.25.16
Waiting for an Uber to pick me up at 6:30pm on a Friday night just seemed odd. Was I really going to a show before the sun started to set? Would Pinegrove be worth showing up hours before the headliner was scheduled to perform? Could I even last through four bands? And if I could, would I really want to? I thought back on my teenage years in Southern California, when a stacked bill of Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords bands was something I looked forward to for weeks. We’d all be lined up before the doors opened just to get a spot in front of the stage, where we’d spend the entire night being shoved, elbowed, hit, and if unlucky, kicked in the head by a flying Dr. Marten. Oh, those were the days. Two decades have passed since then. I’m much older now. And although I grew up on all the punk (pop and otherwise) and post-hardcore that gave birth to emo, I don’t think I’d ever been to an emo-specific show. I realized I wouldn’t be dealing with a Hot Topic ‘mall emo’ crowd (if they even exist anymore), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned about being the oldest guy in the crowd.
As it turned out, my concerns were completely unfounded. In fact, I think the word emo should be removed from our vocabulary altogether. I did notice a higher ratio of black X’s to blue bracelets, but other than that, there was nothing to differentiate the crowd from any other indie show at the Marquis, or any other venue for that matter. All four bands were completely unique in sound and style as well. Slapping the same label on all of them would be disingenuous at best. I think it has always been that way with emo though. Like many subgenres, the designation is nothing more than a lazy way to group disparate bands into nice, marketable packages. Pinegrove, TWIABP, and Into It. Over It. had only three things in common last night – their lyrics leaned toward deeply introspective subject matter, their vocals came out a little nasally, and they seemed to have a real connection with their audience. Aside from those three things (which arn’t necessarily unique to emo, or even rock in general), the bands who performed at the Marquis Theatre had about as much in common as Rites of Spring, Sunny Day Real Estate, and My Chemical Romance did when they were active.
Pinegrove were the first up and they drew quite the crowd. Their latest album, Cardinal, was the reason I was in attendance. The strong showing for their early set proved I wasn’t alone. The four-piece from Montclair, New Jersey opened things up with a pair of songs that preceded the new album. “Problems” and “Need 2” were able to warm both the band and the crowd, but “Cadmium” introduced the Pinegrove we came to see. The song, which starts out as an acoustic alt-country slow burner, expands into something grand as Evan Hall exemplifies vocal range like it ain’t no thing. The Southern twang almost slips out the side of his contorted mouth one second, before he bares his teeth and screams his feelings in your face the next. Wilco and early-Bright Eyes are obvious influences, but when the crowd joined in for the ah ah ah’s on “Size of the Moon”, I couldn’t help but imagine a punk rock version of The Lumineers or Avett Brothers. I realize that might sound awful on paper, but a quick listen to “Old Friends” and “Aphasia” (a couple more country songs hidden under the guise of guitar rock) will convince you otherwise.
Pinegrove are a very young band (Hall looks like he might need black X’s on his hands) and their lyrics lean a little heavy on high school poetry (“I should call my parents when I think of them, should tell my friends when I love them”), but they do seem honest…and funny (“I was totally nervous to go to Japan, I tried travel once, I lost my keys”). They showed their appreciation for the awesome early evening turn out by thanking the audience multiple times. They also seemed pretty stoked to be offering their first piece of vinyl at the merch booth. The set was too short, as was expected for the first band of the night, but leaving us wanting more is always a good strategy. They walked off the stage as “one more song!” rang through the venue. The smiles on their faces matched those of their fans.
The Sidekicks were up next, but I find myself lacking the words or desire to describe their set. The band from Cleveland, Ohio were alright, and they wrapped things up with an extremely strong, fuzzed-out guitar freak-out, but overall I found them pretty generic. The lead singer’s voice reminded me a bit of John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats, but their performance just brought me back to the countless pop punk bands who would play skate parks and beach parties in San Diego in the mid-90’s.
The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die is a band I was familiar with, but not a huge fan of, before the show. Harmlessness was inescapable when it was released last year, but nothing about that album prepared me for their set. First off, there are eight musicians in the band. If you’ve ever been to the Marquis Theatre, you know it’s hard enough to fit a four-piece on that stage. Second, they like to perform in the dark. The drummer was lit bright, while the rest of the members were like shadows flickering in candle light. Third, they are an extremely progressive band who create an almost impenetrable wall of sound. The music has a weight that just doesn’t carry onto their records. That weight threatened to suffocate those inside the tiny venue last night. David Bello attacked his two microphones like a man on a mission, while his enormous band pummeled the room with wave after wave of guitar-driven, keyboard-laced noise.
My own ignorance around the lyrical content did nothing to minimize the potency of the performance. “January 10th, 2014” served as the epic opener and then they worked their way through highlights from Harmlessness and Whenever, If Ever. Half the band was literally gazing at their shoes while bodies were jumping and shoving into one another on the main floor. Explosions in the Sky came to mind more than once as the guitars crashed together in a swirling cacophony of chords. And just when you thought their equipment was going to burst apart in protest (something actually did catch on fire during the set), everything would come to a halt and Bello would demonstrate what Isaac Brock would sound like if he actually tired to sing. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed. It’s not often I am surprised by a band these days, so being knocked on my ass by TWIABP was the highlight of my night.
The last time I saw Evan Thomas Weiss perform as Into It. Over It. was when he opened for Andrew Jackson Jihad and Frank Turner in 2011. He didn’t have a band that time around, but his acoustic set showed promise. He was arguably more Chris Carrabba than Gordon Gano that night, which made him an odd choice for a line-up that leaned heavily on folk punk, but I did enjoy his set. The Into It. Over It. that headlined last night was a completely different act. Backed by a full band, and riding high on the success of Standards, Weiss took the stage with an exuberance that made him almost unrecognizable. “We’ve played here before, but this is the biggest headlining show we’ve ever done in this city!” It would have been wrong for him to take credit for selling 200 more tickets than the last time around, especially considering the thinning of the herd that occurred after TWIABP wrapped up, but you couldn’t help but feed off his positive energy. The fact that he kept giving props to the opening bands helped as well. “Who has been here since the beginning of the show? So I don’t have to tell you how good Pinegrove were?” He then went on to call The Sidekicks the greatest American band since Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Every act that came before him had a song dedicated to them by the time his hour long set came to a close.
Probably the most straight-forward rock band of the night, Into It. Over It. were extremely tight. Reminiscent of early Death Cab and Weezer, blended with the best pop punk the 90’s had to offer, there was nothing truly unique or original about their music, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Those who did stick around were true fans as well. Not that Weiss needed any assistance with his vocals, but he got it anyway. Every song was sung back at him by his rabid fan base crowding the small stage. Feeding off that support, the band didn’t shy away from older material. No matter how much love is being thrown at Standards, nobody wants to hear all new material, so equal parts Proper and Intersections made for the perfect nightcap.
Waiting for an Uber to take me home at 11:45pm felt right. Pinegrove’s set was worth showing up early for and I felt rewarded for sticking around to see all four bands. I didn’t situate myself right in front of the stage and I wasn’t involved in any shoving, elbowing, or flying shoes, but I did enjoy a full four hours of live music that made me feel young again. It might have been my first emo-specific show, but I came to learn those words don’t really mean anything. It was just another entertaining rock show put on by a group of bands who dabble in country, punk, and shoegazing walls of sound. And I wasn’t even the oldest guy there.
Size of the Moon
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die:
January 10th, 2014
Heartbeat in the Brain
From The Crow’s Nest On Fire Street
Rage Against the Dying of the Light
Ra Patera Dance
Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay
We Need More Skulls
Into It. Over It.:
Who You Are Does Not Equal Where You Are
No Good Before Noon
Discretion & Depressing People
The Shaking of Leaves
Midnight: Carroll Street