How I Got Into Into It. Over It.

It’s wild how an album can grow on you. When you first stream it on your laptop, you don’t really get it; It passes through you. Damn those shitty speakers. But then maybe you give it another try, with headphones, in another headspace, in different mood entirely, at the end of the day when your thoughts seem the loudest. and holy shit. That album can change you; It slowly starts to steep into the fibers of your being and you find riffs and choice selections of words caught up in your daily thoughts.  It starts to embed itself into the soundtrack of your life, you start relating to it in a ridiculous number of ways whether it’s musically, literally, and/or thematically.

This could be any album, for you or for me.  I’ve had these feelings towards albums before but I can’t remember the last time I legitimately felt this way.  Currently, I’m talking about Into It. Over It.‘s ‘Intersections’. The album is stellar. It takes a couple a listens but you finally reach nothing short of an epiphany that Evan Weiss’ is nothing less than a humble genius. He is a brilliant songwriter, musician, performer, and storyteller – So much so that if you don’t look at him with some sort of admiration, respect, and/or envy I’m not sure you’re fully human.

January 2011, I went to the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn with my dad to see another yearly installment of the ‘Where’s the Band?’ tour featuring Chris Conley, Anthony Raneri, Matt Pryor, Ace Enders, and Evan Weiss.  I knew of the former four but not the latter.  He was a mystery.  Watching him open was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  His singing and lyrics so sincere, that FINGERPICKING, and what tuning was he playing in? Surely that wasn’t Standard E…And it wasn’t.  I’d never seen anything like it. Evan is very well known for using many alternate tunings. And that factor is one of the reasons why I think he stands out so much – He goes beyond the norm. And I like that. He caught my ear and made me a fan for life.

I tell people this doesn’t happen to me often; I don’t usually get blown away by opening acts, in fact I usually come in with very low expectations for the openers as shitty as it sounds. But I think we’ve all been conditioned to feel that way because how many shows have we been to where we’re impatiently drinking our drinks, having run out of things to talk about in between because the opener is taking FOREVER and preventing us from seeing who we really came to see! But when that sort of thing happens – when I am wowed, goosebumped, easily attentive, and feel that static electricity inside my body sparking with excitement I don’t take it lightly.  It’s only happened to me three times before: Once with Evan, once with Kevin Devine, and the other time with Balance and Composure.

That first night in Brooklyn after his set, I awkwardly went up to him at the merch table and bought a CD of his then latest record, Proper.  I then proceeded to half-drunkenly ask him questions about his guitar and the like.  He was the sweetest and answered all my questions with a smile.  I saw him again at a Chuck E. Cheese-esque venue in Montclair three months later where he played to no more than 25 of us as we gathered around and listened to him play, some of us singing along. Six months later, I saw him headline and play full band for the first time at Santos Party House in Manhattan a week before Hurricane Sandy with Hostage Calm, Cheap Girls, and The Front Bottoms.

This past Thursday, I revisited the place where I first discovered him – the Music Hall of Williamsburg – to see him play full band again, this time better than ever. I went to the show by myself, which I’ve never done before…EVER. It was slightly nerve-wracking to travel all the way to Brooklyn via train and subway but I did it. I’m actually pretty proud that I did it. When I finally got on the 12:40 AM train to go home, I put in my headphones and queued up ‘Intersections’ for the ride back.  It was a completely different experience than when I had streamed it on my laptop a few days before.  Something was different. Something had changed.  And I realized, it was me that was different, me who had changed. Maybe it was my tired brain finally relaxing after an exhaustive afternoon of transportation and an evening of the finest rock n’ roll.  Maybe it was the vodka cranberry I had, combined with the comfort of sitting down for one of the first times that night.  Maybe it was the curtained sadness in my heart as I looked up admiringly at the bands I saw that night and reflecting on what I was doing with my life.  ‘Intersections’ quenched my thirst, it opened my eyes, it kept me awake, and my mind racing.  When I saw Evan again on Saturday, I bought the ‘Intersections’ vinyl.

Like anything I say, I can only tell you what I know to be true based off my experience.  If this sort of thing has never happened to you, you may not understand. But to those who this has happened to, you know what I mean.  It’s some sort of calling.  Some sort of affirmation of the life and energy that exists within you.  When a song resonates, you feel it in your soul; that central core in the center of your torso. And you feel the electric sparks spread throughout your body.

Evan is a huge vinyl junkie. And because of that, I think he understands what makes a good record. He doesn’t live in or even associate with the Top40 concept of “singles” or sticking with the mainstream “sound”. All of that’s irrelevant and I think he knows it. And I’m glad he’s a musician who stays true to himself and his talents. His music really reflects his authenticity and as a listener, that’s all I can ever hope to ask for.  Keep it up, Evan.  ‘Intersections’ has unexpectedly found a way into my heart. All your hard work was/is worth it and I will probably support you and your musical endeavors indefinitely.

‘Til next tour –

Freckles

A couple weeks ago I was checking the mail. It wasn’t a lot, far less than usual actually. But while thumbing through the letters, I noticed something larger than the others addressed to me.  What struck me as strange was the fact that I hadn’t ordered anything recently as I’m unemployed and without the ability to be frivolous with my limited funds.  Yet it was a large envelope/package addressed to me specifically and I could feel the contents inside; Definitely a book of some kind.  I found myself somewhat perturbed.  Is that weird? Even if it is, later on I convinced myself that it wasn’t as we currently live in a paranoid, skeptical, over-analytical culture full of distrust and suspicion.

After pondering for a few minutes as to what this could be, I opened the package and there did indeed contain a book inside.  Freckles by Eric Shaw.  The book and author were unfamiliar to me and the whole ensemble seemed pretty DIY.  For example, no ISBN number, Arial and Times New Roman font, and the author’s return address label was on the package itself.  No publisher, etc.  It wasn’t large.  Just over 100 pages with some black and white photos inside.  I even Googled the book and although you can find it in various electronic formats and order it from the author directly, there’s nothing giving it “mainstream validation” as in search engine results from Amazon, eBay…sites like that.

From a quick glance, the format seemed to be poetry or something along those lines.  I was pretty dumbfounded.  Who could have sent this to me? Did the author somehow have my address?  I asked friends and parents about it.  They were clueless as to who could have sent it and seemed just as flabbergasted as I was.  I went through bank and credit card statements, my PayPal history, and came up with nothing as to how I could have received this book.  Finding no conclusive answer as to how I received it, I decided to open it up and give Freckles my undivided attention.  But before I could, I noticed a note inside – Two pieces of printer paper folded in half and typed single space.  Essentially, it was a message of the author’s thanks and appreciation for purchasing the book interwoven with life’s reassurances along the lines of, “everything’s going to be alright”, “someone will love you”, “you’re here for a reason”.  I don’t know, kind of uplifting stuff that any unemployed, directionless college grad would want to hear.  Kind of timely stuff, you know?  I read it over 10 times before I actually read the book.

Now, this isn’t a book review but I have to say I did enjoy reading the quirky, honest poetry from this mysterious author that uninvitingly showed up on my doorstep.  If I understand correctly, all the poems were written at a point in the Shaw’s life when he had uprooted himself from his familiar surroundings, got lost, did some thinking, reflected on mistakes, and constantly kicked himself for the broken heart he was so positively sure he caused himself.  Truth is, Freckles would/will never get “mainstream validation” from a publishing company or anything like that because it’s too raw, too real, too imperfect.  Kind of like a human being.  I think that’s why I liked it.  It’s at least one of the reasons why I did.  It even kind of reminded me of myself in a way.  Not always literally, but thematically.  That’s how I relate to Hip-hop sometimes, but that’s a different conversation to be had for a different day.

Now in the note Shaw provided, he listed his email address and link to his Tumblr site urging for feedback, communication, contact, etc.  Still baffled about how I ended up with Freckles, I decided to contact him.  I wanted an answer and I knew this would definitely get me one.  Turns out, I had won something on eBay from him – something Saves the Day related. (I’m pretty sure it may have been the white vinyl OOP edition of ‘Through Being Cool’ I won this past December/January)  He told me he uses his PayPal account to handle his book orders and eBay stuff and must’ve gotten my address from eBay mixed up with the book orders.  A silly mistake but I didn’t mind it.  In fact, I found it very interesting and told him so, along with the story I’ve just shared with you.  I got the vibe (although I guess it’s always hard to tell via email/text what kind of emotion a person is really conveying) that he was embarrassed about it and if he is, I wish he wouldn’t be because in a strange sense I really am grateful.  A book was sent to me that I would have never discovered had this situation not happened in this way.  I would have never been aware of this book in any other circumstance.

It’s just another one of those universe things where things are (literally) delivered to you or happen to you without your knowledge or control.  It’s another message that I will probably hold on to for way too long and over-analyze until it’s lost all meaning.  It’s kind of a problem I’m trying to get over but unsure how to go about it, you know?  But if anything, I now have a cool story to share and a book in my possession that not many people have or even know about.

The world knows.  The world always knows what you’re going through, how you feel.  It senses your energy and orchestrates its place within the field of everything else out there.  I’m sure of it.  Whether you call it God, Allah, Zeus, Shiva, Yahweh, Jehovah, Buddha, Jesus Christ, or Mother Earth – It’s all the same.  It’s this all encompassing entity and science and magic fueled by hope, fear, love, hate, and faith that is beyond our imagination yet is constantly pulling all these strings and allowing silly mistakes to happen that send unknown books to our front doors.

You can order Freckles for yourself, here.