It’s been a busy year for Evan Weiss – since the release of Into It. Over It.’s third LP Standards early this year, the man hasn’t stopped moving. Seeing him play in Manchester back in May, I was surprised to hear him assertively shout “see you in November!” into the crowd at the end of his set; it seemed strange that he was returning to the UK so soon.
Well, he stuck to his promise, and this tour was for the fans. Playing three shows in London (all with dramatically different setlists), and more in Brighton, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow, Evan had been meticulous with the locations – choosing destinations that meant something to him on this small island. I was lucky enough to attend three of these shows (two at the Lexington in London, one at The Star & Garter in Manchester), and chatting to other crowd members I wasn’t the only one taking this musical pilgrimage. It speaks volumes that fans like myself are willing to follow this band around the country, and the mixture of familiar faces at different shows gave the whole series of events a sense of camaraderie.
Into It. Over It.’s set in Manchester was the one I anticipated the most, in which their latest offering Standards was played live in full. Much like his previous offering Intersections, the album showcases Evan’s most mature work to date (both also written in tandem with IIOI’s astounding drummer, Josh Sparks) with songs that cover quieter, more introspective themes, with instrumentation to match – or, in the words of a fan of his earlier work who Evan showed a hilarious moment of self-awareness towards by mimicking them in good spirits: “why doesn’t he write fast songs anymore, muhhh”.
Fittingly, one of the biggest highlights of the evening was one of the most restrained. ‘Anesthetic’ is arguably Into It. Over It.’s prettiest song, a languidly paced ballad that features lilting strings and moments of flittering keyboard. It translated just as well to a live setting, as guitars were played with violin bows, offering a shoegaze-y envelope of sound; perhaps the only moment where audience members were closing their eyes and taking it all in. Fitting, perhaps, as the song is inspired by being put under for an operation – a “lucid death state” as Evan himself called it.
Elsewhere, speed is of the essence – ‘Adult Contempt’ is a virtuosic piece, but mostly so for drummer Josh Sparks. it’s a transfixing percussive track that never lets up, and watching him play is always something else. Limbs fly all over the place at 100mph, but with a precision that astounds; every hit placed with purpose on a drum set-up that’s incredibly modest (two heavy ride cymbals, three toms) given the multitude of sounds that Josh manages to unleash from it. Similarly, ‘Required Reading’ has the same relentless energy, and it’s thrilling to watch Evan and co.’s fingers dash up and down fret-boards with ease in the midst of a song that sonically feels as if it’s always on the brink of spilling over into chaos.
Following from the new came the old, and the band carried on to play their split with fellow artist KOJI in its entirety, which was released back in 2009. This portion of the set came as a nostalgia attack for the fans who’ve been listening to him since they were angsty teens, and the buzz in the crowd was palpable. The highlight from this set was ‘Ravenswood’, a song that falls on the jauntier ten percent of IIOI’s work – it’s all too brief at two minutes long, but is highly indicative of Evan’s work to come, with deliberately placed guitar licks, warm harmonies, and catchy vocal hooks that fall just short of cliché. By stark contrast, ‘Pilsen’ shows just how far the band has matured in its sound – there was no shortage of energy, and it was still a joy to watch the band play a heavier song after a more restrained set, but there was less subtlety and nuance in the execution.
The fact that these full album shows worked so well is also a testament to Evan’s uncanny ability in structuring a beautiful LP – the ebb and flow of these records cover a vast spectrum of quiets and louds, some songs calmly introspective and others unabashedly cathartic. A perfect example comes in the form of Intersections’ (which the band also played in full at The Lexington in London on the 16th of November) ‘Spatial Exploration’ which ties straight into ‘Favor & Fiction’. The former is a blisteringly relentless break-up song in which Evan doesn’t mince his words, the latter a subtle and powerful track that builds gracefully through the growing intensity of understated guitar and piano licks. Live, the seamless transition between the two is shiver inducing – the band freeze for a moment on the unresolved chord and suspended mess of feedback and ringing cymbals, before sliding into the clean opening of the next song.
In his 7 run show of the UK, Evan showed his absolute dedication in his craft, and to the fans that hang on his every album. Specially rehearsing songs for live performances that he hadn’t yet played anywhere in the world in order to realise these full album shows credits him as a truly committed performer, which is evidenced greatly in every single show he plays; each is a beautiful, unforgettable experience.By Daniel Johnson