Into. It Over It. (IIOI) have been on the road since early January, with A Great Big Pile of Leaves (AGPOL) and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Although their North American tour will be ending in a few short days, I was lucky enough to catch these incredibly talented bands at Strange Matter in Richmond last Sunday. I’ve been to The National a few times, but this was my first time at a local venue to see some “local” touring bands in RVA. After an hour and half drive with local musician, James Brown (Conquering Rome and Accident Prone), we finally arrived, only to find ourselves on a search for a decent parking spot. We ended up parking, probably illegally, in an unattended VCU garage.
Strange Matter is without a doubt, the strangest and most unique venue I have ever been to for a show. Inside the graffiti covered walls, sweaty adolescents dressed in band tees and converses, stood shoulder to shoulder, creating a stench I’ve never smelled before; something along the lines of “I didn’t shower before I came here, but I did remember to smoke.” The stage is located at the front of the venue, with a staircase easier to get to than the unisex bathrooms, where you’re faceed with the choice of going into the room to the left with urinals or the one to the right with one working stall. The journey to the bathroom took you past the merch tables, past the bar and finally past the old school arcade games that line the left walls. I tend to compare my experiences to movies, but I honestly felt I was in a scene from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Unfortunately, James and I missed the opening band, but after minutes inside the venue, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves pushed through the crowd, guitars in hand and made their way to the stage. We also pushed through, politely, and landed a spot to the left of the stage, near a kid with a Polaroid camera, who was snapping photos throughout the show. AGPOL were energetic from the first chord to the last. Those standing front and center were jumping and dancing along. They played many songs from their latest and second full-length record, You’re Always On My Mind, which was released last year. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Next up was the band with the longest band name I’ve ever seen, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. The band has a mellower, more instrumental sound, yet the emotion they convey with the few lyrics, had the whole room in awe. There were some quiet moments during their set, but that didn’t stop the “slightly” intoxicated people up front from screaming and jumping along.
Before Into It. Over It. hit the stage, James and I went to check out the merch tables. There I met Mr. Evan Weiss, leader singer of IIOI and fellow New Jerseyian! He said, “I love meeting other people from New Jersey,” which was very exciting. I complimented his awesome beard and we also spoke about his experience on the Last Call with Carson Daly show. His interview was very blunt and honest, something you don’t see very often from musicians.
When Evan and the rest of IIOI hit the stage, the kids standing behind the bar and the merch tables turned their eyes and ears to the front of the room. Although my eyes were glued to the band, I was also observing the crowd. About everyone in the room was singing along with Evan. He stopped often in between songs, to tune his guitar and to have a little chat with that one married guy, who’s been drinking at Strange Matter since the 80’s and had a pineapple upside down cake at his wedding. Evan told us that the first time he played in Richmond, about 5 people showed up, so he was very appreciative of the turnout. IIO’s set was flawless. They closed with one of my favorites, “Midnight: Carroll Street” off of the 2011 release, Proper.
After the set, the majority of the crowd rushed to the exit, while a few gathered by the stage to talk to Evan and some of the other musicians. He talked to James for a bit and thanked us for coming and got right back to signing records and taking selfies with fans. The 3 hour roundtrip Sunday drive was definitely worth the trip. The bands put on an incredible show and I wish all three of them the best of luck and success.
Review by Lisa Perez HHM
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