I’ve been listening to the same damn Thursday album for 10 years and no matter what, Full Collapse still finds a way to bounce off my living room walls on a “stop everything and clean the apartment” Saturday, and, mostly, in my nostalgic, sentimentally driven head. Despite the countless attempts to spin a new favorite band, Thursday manages to crawl up my leg and gnaw at my widening gyre of a belly; Geoff Rickly’s doleful brand of dissonant delivery forcing itself onto me and burrowing deep in my surfacing frown lines.
There were no substitutions last Wednesday, traveling down the Jersey coastline to the iconic Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park against a polar vortex of staying “on the open road” and driving “for hours and still no end in sight at all.” I decided to brace the subzero air and parked on a pot-holed side street to avoid paying for a spot, dizzy with thoughts of my purple Walkman struggling to scan the scratched bottom of the aforementioned record.
The chill and recollections left my goose pimpled neck the moment I was greeted with oxidized arm tattoos, rotting lumber, and the lingering scent of foot sweat from bowlers past. The dusty, splintered pins and sticky laminate floors of yesterday seemed to scorn at the youthful crowd spread out before me, drunk on instant gratification and tapping their toes to the clicking of a text message; undoubtedly sporting hidden hard-ons against a pocket of Snapchat pornography.
I decided to order a beer.
And in the hazy reflection of hops and yeast, I found myself four virgins deep in a post-pubescent sausage expo, wrapped in casings of flannel button-ups and quivering melodies. I was at the antithesis of a frat party, an initiation ceremony into emerging adulthood. The Spotify generation goes to college, I thought, the one track, trick ponies trotting with a single thumb in approval, and swimming in a sea of loosely fitting beanies. The precise components of, as it has ultimately been coined, an “emo-revival” show.
The first element played to the tune of Banquets, a standard of punk rockers hailing from Jersey City. Full of solid, sing-song energy and confidence without cockiness, the four-piece embodied the result of a Jersey pop -punk Punnett square, strumming similarly to the likes of The Gaslight Anthem. Frontman Travis Omilian, sporting a handsome straight-laced face and trembling Andy Jackson vocals, shot sincere smiles to the malleable audience, flirting with their stretched earlobes with the cynical tickle of his lyricism. Songs like “Daggers” and “Call it a Comeback” are just as buoyant as your first car’s tires kissing the asphalt as you shift your hairless body against the budding chest of a crush.
Topshelf Records’ A Great Big Pile of Leaves was the next faction on the venue’s makeshift stage, supporting a sound from Brooklyn that is more melodic indie-rock than abrasive. “Snack Attack” instantly defined the band as a tranquil and chilled ensemble, as if Minus the Bear were pen pals with Japan’s Toe. With “Pizzanomics”, singer Peter Weiland coaxes likes David Bazan through stepladder guitar work as the soft brushing of Tyler Soucy’s cymbals resemble the graze of a cat’s whiskers against smooth, summertime ankles. In their short set, A Great Big Pile of Leaves left me with a sense of renewal in the scene I so long ago attached myself to. I watched as young men emphatically whimpered with each string plucked, heads coiled to fire personal tales of heartbreak from their barreled mouths, or at least from the glow of an iPhone screen.
In my collective memory there have been only a series of times I have encountered a band that grabbed me by my tattered jean pockets, emptying the lint out of their tiny stitches, and beckoning me to a stage. Queue in Connecticut natives, The World is a Beautiful Place & I’m No Longer Afraid to Die, or, let’s just go with TWISABP. Despite the arduous title, TWISABP captivate the quirky keyboards of The Anniversary to the whining cacophony of Cap’n Jazz’s Tim Kinsella, thus truly showcasing their direct ancestry from the great gods of emo. Crowding the stage with nine members, TWISABP began their set with the instrumental, “blank#9” shortly leading in to “Heartbeat in the Brain”, off their LP Whenever, If Ever. “Heartbeat in the Brain” is a fault line, causing the earth to shake and separate every time vocalist David Bello hits a tectonic high note as Katie Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s keys erupt destruction against organic passion. It was as if the neglected pins, set back in the far wall of the venue, shifted for a split second; striking off years of abuse and tilting back and forth with the enthralled group of college boys. With the song, “Getting Sodas”, a more grungy choice, there emitted a sense of innocent urgency, and with each chant of the final , “the world is a beautiful place/but we have to make it that way…” from audience and band alike, I could not help but sense that I was witnessing a natural disaster; the type that illustrates not only how volatile, but beautiful, the world truly is.
Throughout these performances, a beige parka donning gentleman, wearing thick rimmed glasses held close to his head with a leather strap, spoke to everyone he passed by, drawing a small clamor among the handful of girls there that night. Evan Weiss of Into it. Over it. has certainly made a name for himself in mere months, even though he has passed mile markers all over the Midwest punk interstate. As the underground rumbles with the phrase, “emo revival”, Weiss seems to be the attractively bearded king sitting at its throne. I initially had the pleasure to see Into it. Over it. back in September at Starland Ballroom. It is fascinating to note how much they have progressed since opening for Saves the Day. More energetically knit and as well as headlining this tour, Into it. Over it. began with a track off of their album Proper. I witnessed “Discretion & Depressing People”, a classic pop-punk ditty, drain the previous melancholy from the faces of the crowd, as the mob immediately transitioned into aggressive fury reminiscent of an early century Further Seems Forever show. It is easy to sit back and note the influence of Braid in songs like “Fak It” and the crisp, forlorn precision of Ben Gibbard in “No Good Before Noon”. However, the band has an unbelievable knack for synthesizing a spectrum of influences and emitting an original invention worthy of scientific notation. In this respect, Evan Weiss and company are certainly the ring bearers to a union of what was and what is to be, not to mention a damn good live band.
As the band was wrapping up, neatly folding away their guitars and winding their chords into neat little piles, I spotted a lone girl next to me. She was shifting her feet awkwardly with a pair of hi-top purple Converses, pawing at the laminate floor for a soundtrack to call her own.
The same shoes I wore at my first Thursday show.