Into It. Over It.
w/ Zzzounds and Jess Locke
The Rev, Melbourne
Friday 30 September 2016
I awoke at 4.30am (1.30am Melbourne time) to make it to the airport for my flight to Melbourne for the Into It. Over It. show. As I stumbled out of bed bleary eyed, I quietly thanked myself for having the foresight to have packed my gear the night previous.
I got to the airport without a hitch, seeing as there is no traffic so early in the morning. My flight was delayed by an hour, but I busied myself doing some paperwork on my laptop as I sat in the waiting room.
Once it was time to board I somehow managed to squeeze my 6’3″ frame into the airline seat that was clearly designed for people less vertically inclined than myself. I managed to survive the four-hour flight, despite the lady in front of me deciding to recline her seat into my knees. She then proceeded to slam her body weight squarely onto my knees every two minutes as she tossed and turned, trying to make herself comfortable, and inflicting maximum pain upon my legs in the process.
Landing in Melbourne was mayhem. Nobody appeared to have a clue where to go and the lack of signage and airport staff did little to dispel the mass confusion. It took an hour to get from the runway to a bus that drove us along the tarmac, through customs, and out of the airport altogether. It was a public holiday in Melbourne because of the AFL sports final, so perhaps most of the staff had the day off? I’ve been told that customs officials are on strike tomorrow, so I wonder if I’m going to have an equally unpleasant time trying to get back into the airport?
Whilst not the first time I had flown overseas, or even the first time I’d been to Melbourne, this was the first time that I’d traveled abroad for a gig, and I was wondering if it was worth all the hassle I’d had to endure so far.
My friends picked me up from the airport. We spent the morning in Richmond sampling outrageously unhealthy [read: tasty] food, before heading into the city to stroll down the streets in search of more morsels and to listen to buskers on Bourke Street. It was both a public holiday and school holidays, so town was exceptionally busy and full of life.
I was insistent that we needed to buy some matching red and black checked shirts to wear to the gig. My friend Francie was having no bar of it, deciding that dressing like a lumberjack was beneath her. But I managed to find a beautiful 7XL sized top to wear for $10 (bargain!), and offered my own more modestly sized M sized shirt to Francie’s boyfriend James, who was far too polite to decline. He didn’t seem to stoked on the idea, but I think that he was secretly relieved that I hadn’t bought another of the 7XL shirts for him.
We arrived at the gig at 9pm. Sadly we missed opening act Jess Locke. Time management has never been my forte, and navigating Melbourne public transport was a bit beyond me in my current sleep-deprived state.
I introduced myself to Evan Weiss, the man of the night, who was manning the merch desk. He thought it was hilarious that I was rocking a shirt the size of a tent. I’d got the idea from the brilliant “No EQ” music video [embedded above], which involves everyone dressing up in those red checked shirts and oversized Evan Weiss masks with plastic glasses. To my surprise, Evan told me that I was the first fan crazy enough to actually try to dress like him for a gig. He told me that he hadn’t even featured in the “No EQ” video. He had been away touring while his friends put together the video, almost as a prank on him. At least my friends thought my insanity was slightly more justified after that conversation.
Second support Zzzounds [aka Dave Drayton] started shortly after. Like Weiss, Drayton was doing a solo show without a band for support. And the IIOI comparisons don’t stop there. He sang brilliant heartfelt songs with nimble finger picking on a glittery green guitar, and was never ending with the funny banter.
His guitar style was impressive. Most of his playing was done using two hands on the neck, with a mixture or tapping and finger picking. He sang sad songs about unemployment and lack of money, but it didn’t get depressing because he was devastatingly funny between songs. He employed a gimmick of trying to incorporate nu-metal puns and Simpsons references into his songs. Anyone who writes songs about Juggalos getting confused about magnets gets a thumbs up from me.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping that Weiss would have brought a band over, or at least his phenomenal drummer, Josh Sparks. But I was also hoping to hear some lovely singer/songwriter numbers like from his Daytrotter sessions. Turns out that Weiss had chosen not to bring his full band on his first Australian tour, partly to test the waters, and partly because going solo is cheaper than airfares for a full band.
Not that this mattered. Weiss had more than enough presence to compensate for his lack of support. Belting out anthemic choruses one second, and then tenderly cooing into the mic the next, he showed a wide range of proficiency. A few of his rockier songs felt slightly flatter than usual without the drums or guitar pedals that feature in the studio versions, but this was easily forgiven, because he was able to pump out such brilliant tunes using just his guitar and his voice.
And although he joked that it was “sad singer/songwriter night”, nothing was sad about his performance. He was lively and energetic. He shared with us that he’d been nervous about how he would be recieved in Austrailia, but was having such a great time and couldn’t believe how well it was going.
It was a captivating show. I’ve listened to him sing thousands of times on record, so it was something special to sit a few metres away from him and watch him work his magic.
Weiss was at ease on the stage, and commented on how much fun he was having, and how welcome he felt a few times over the course of the night. He shared stories behind a few songs, told us about how his cat was plotting to kill him, discussed his old haunted car, invited us to request songs, and even asked us to heckle him (like they do back in New Jersey).
My favourite story was about the inspiration for “Pinky Swear”. At the time of writing the song Weiss was struggling to make a living as a musician, and his girlfriend was also struggling to make ends meet as someone who made plush toys for a living. The two of them swore to each other that they’d follow their passions, and the song tells of Weiss reflecting on this promise, parked in his car on the side of the road whilst watching a fireworks display.
He was a great sport, taking requests to play super deep cuts. Some of the songs he hadn’t played for many years, but it was the last night of tour, and he was feeling good, so he made a go of it. People in the audience felt comfortable interacting. Some heckled Wiess, tongue-in-cheek, as he had prompted them to. Many shouted out requests. One guy got a shout out for whistling a melody that was absent from the live guitar-only version of a song.
For one request (“Portland, OR”, from the split EP with Such Gold), Weiss had to re-tune his whole guitar, and once he had, realised that he’d entirely forgotten how the song went. He tried to look it up on spotify to remind himself, and had an attempt, before throwing in the towel and just telling us the story behind the song. He had been staying in Portland when he and his mates had invited a girl to the pub with them. She offered to buy him a beer, and when he’d said “thanks, bro”, she’d blasted him and called him a “jock douche”, which inspired the song.
It was nice to see a professional musician show that it’s OK not to be perfect. He will have played some of his songs countless times, but still manages to make mistakes. But he owns his mistakes, and has fun while he’s doing it.
I was tired and sore when I got to this gig. It had been a long day. But the music had been spellbinding. It was magic seeing how music could be used to form a genuine connection between strangers.
I left the gig exhausted, but elated. I’d been awake for almost 24 hours straight and in that time I’d flown to a different country, eaten some amazing food, caught up with old friends, and managed to meet one of my favourite artists and see him take complete ownership of the stage. It made me think about how fortunate I am to be able to pursue my love of music, and attend so many great shows.
“Life gets in the way of living
And interrupts the could be, would be, should be
That we’re offered everyday
And now that you and I’ve been given what we’ve wanted
Let’s make a pinky swear that we don’t throw it all away.”
-Into It. Over It. – “Pinky Swear”
And, as if I hadn’t managed to embarrass my friends enough that day, I fell asleep on the train ride back to their house, draped in an tragically over-sized flannel shirt.