Into It. Over It., The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am Not Afraid to Die, The Sidekicks, Pinegrove
April 7, 2016
Emo is in a peculiar state in 2016. Most bands that would typically fit the designation often disavow it, or accept it begrudgingly. As trends are changing throughout the music industry, it’s interesting to note that many acts with an emo influence have proven to be some of the more consistently talented independent rock bands pushing the genre forward. Whether or not the so-called “emo revival” has really been going on the past three years or not, bands like The Hotelier or Foxing have been working to give newfound legitimacy and depth to the genre.
Thursday night, Warehouse Live featured not one but four of the bands leading the charge in this regard. It’s rare for a touring bill of four bands to be so stacked, but the grouping of Into It. Over It., The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am Not Afraid to Die, The Sidekicks, and Pinegrove made for a formidable evening. Drawing a small but completely captivated crowd to the medium-size studio room of Warehouse Live, the four bands made a strong case for the merits of an oft-derided genre.
As rare as a lineup of four great bands is, it’s even rarer to have the most talented band kick off the night promptly at 7 p.m. Hailing from Montclair, New Jersey, Pinegrove brings a confident approach to folk-influenced indie rock to make a truly winning combination. Active since 2010, the band hovered just above the underground until their breakout record, Cardinal, was released earlier this year. Onstage, they had a tight command of the room, even though it was scarcely filled, with maybe 40 people, as they made the most of an early set time.
Playing pretty much every song from Cardinal, the group had a masterful command of space and volume. Singer Nandi Rose Plunkett has a remarkable voice, stark and plaintive but with a hint of drawl that adds distinction, and he has a strong sense of when to raise or lower his volume to fit the mood of the song. Having more in common with the world-weary musings of Jason Molina than, say, Chris Carrabba, Plunkett spun conversational tales that felt more like a private chat over drinks getting to know someone than like trying to preach at you through a microphone. Those who showed up too late definitely missed out.
Next up were The Sidekicks, who were the weakest band of the night, through not much fault of their own. The band was fine, energetic and game, leading the crowd to really get into their upbeat songs in a way that the other bands of the night didn’t. None of their songs made much of an impression, a passable approximation of "Blue Album"-era Weezer without the neurosis. Few groups can cover The Modern Lovers during their set and not have it be the best song they play all night, so I won’t knock them for that, but it was clearly the highlight of their set.
While Into It. Over It. may have had top billing, the true stars of the evening were TWIABP, making their grand return not six months since playing a memorable set at Walters last November. Still touring off of last fall’s Harmlessness, the eight-piece group sounded tighter and more controlled during their set Thursday. Many songs turned into extended jam sessions, throwing in slow-building elements of post-rock as well as heavier moments of pure noise. The band took it a tad too far at times, as at one moment when they brought the instrumentation down to a whisper before an explosive burst was telegraphed fairly loudly, but otherwise it was a mesmerizing set.
The group’s music is tense and powerful, which translated well here as they covered topics like depression, anxiety and doubt in a way that was enlightening and affirming rather than heavy-handed. Thankfully, the band had a sense of humor about themselves, a key moment coming when one (of four!) guitarists joked about being glad that he wasn’t from Houston, before saying that the place they were from was even worse: “Everything’s bad.”
He followed up by asking the crowd to shout in unison the worst moment of their day so far, and immediately someone in the front shouted “when I woke up!” causing the room to erupt in laughter. Things became grimmer later on as they closed their set with their new single, the bleak but striking “Katamari Duquette,” a heavy take on religion that was accentuated with an intro playing a spoken-word sample that made many in the crowd uncomfortable, with one father taking his son away from the front of the stage toward the back of the room. Part of a 7” released last month, it hints at a dark new direction going forward.
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Unfortunately, the pacing of the show and the popularity of the earlier bands resulted in nearly half the crowd clearing out before Into It. Over It. took the stage. Those who stayed put were treated to a passionate, rousing set, anchored primarily by songs from the group's new album, Standards, which came out last month to glowing reviews. Standards represented a strong pivot for the band to a style of early-’00s Death Cab or Jimmy Eat World, full of emotive, thoughtful tracks. The new songs came across well, but it was the older ones that had the close-knit crowd shouting along faithfully. A few sound issues aside, the band sounded mostly composed and stellar, a workhorse that was consistent without being flashy. Front man Evan Weiss was humble and amenable, continually thanking the crowd and making self-deprecating jokes without feeling like he was reaching too hard. A definite comedown after the sheer catharsis after TWIABP, the set was still impressive and warranted better attendance.
The show may not have been a huge seller, but few coming through this spring have been as packed from top to bottom with stellar bands, especially Pinegrove, who will be headlining the next time they come to town if there’s any justice. Regardless of emo’s reputation, these four bands represent the cream of the crop of what indie-rock has to offer today and made for a riveting evening.