Into It. Over It. / The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die / the Sidekicks / Pinegrove Hard Luck Bar, Toronto ON, April 18

Into It. Over It. / The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die / the Sidekicks / Pinegrove Hard Luck Bar, Toronto ON, April 18
Photo: Stephen McGill
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Over the last half-decade, a groundswell of bands loosely grouped under the umbrella of the American DIY underground — Waxahatchee, Parquet Courts, Tancred — have brought back a litany of guitar rock sounds. For better or worse, none received as much press as the subset of bands leading the so-called "emo revival."
 
Into It. Over It. and the World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die were not unfairly lumped into that scene, but such pigeonholing also failed to capture the larger nuances of both bands' music. Nowhere are the shades of their sounds more apparent than they were onstage at the Toronto stop of their current co-headlining tour last night (April 18). 

Though openers Pinegrove are of the same feather, they likewise offer up new twists on old influences. Their Americana-indebted sound — think Cuff the Duke with a dash of American Football — has a nice grungy grit to it that went over extremely well with the surprisingly packed crowd who showed up early for their 7 p.m. set. That the young quartet were pretty talented players didn't hurt matters, either.

Into It. Over It.'s Evan Weiss would later call the Sidekicks the greatest rock and roll band in America, but there was something about their mix of '90s alt-rock and power pop that felt off. Though they're clearly influenced by some of the era's leading lights, each of their songs seemed to ape a different band. Some in the audience certainly enjoyed their high-energy set, even if their cover of the Jim Carroll Band's "People Who Died" fell on mostly deaf ears.

 
As overstuffed by personnel as their name is by letters, the World is a Beautiful Place & I am no Longer Afraid to Die managed to cram all eight band members onto the small Hard Luck stage, where they wasted no time diving into the sinewy guitar lines of "January 10th, 2014" from their new album, Harmlessness. Though skilled musicians, there were some early rough patches before everything clicked on the song's breakdown. By the time they'd moved on to "Heartbeat in the Brain," though, the octet were working at peak powers, even though singer David Bello's vocals, which were always riding too high and dry in the mix, never quite gelled with his bandmates.
 
Though cathartic, there was a distinct lack of joy on display, and despite their technical acumen, they haven't quite mastered the buildup in tension onstage that's inherent to their records; their post-rock intros and endings were at times ponderous, stretching the patience of even some hardcore fans. When things clicked though, the band were seemingly unbeatable.

Starting his set solo, Evan Weiss, the creative force behind Into It. Over It., looked and sounded the polar opposite of his tour mates and long-time friends. The subtle "Anchor" gave way to "Closing Argument," for which his three-piece band joined him onstage. Weiss and co. recaptured the loose and laidback energy that Pinegrove had sown earlier in the evening, keeping things lively no matter the song's tempo.

Weiss pulled from across his surprisingly dense catalogue, reach back to his 52 Weeks project for "22 Syllables." His guitar playing seems to improve with each stop through town, while his supporting players — particularly drummer Josh Sparks — pushed his skills to their limits. It gave their set an edge, the feeling that everything could collapse under the weight of Weiss's complicated rhythms and stops and starts, yet time and again Weiss, a magnetic presence on stage, kept things from falling off the rails.

They finished their set with the hyperkinetic "Adult Contempt" before returning to the stage with "Connecticut Steps" and "Midnight: Carroll Street." Weiss thanked the crowd profusely, calling the show their best in Toronto ever. The sweaty mosh pit cheering in agreement.