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Evens song - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Evens song
The Evens
Portland Arms, 20th March 2006

Last Monday addedentry and I went to see The Evens. I feel less silly for taking a week to get round to writing a review now I find that the band don't appear to have got round to writing a website yet.

I'd never heard of Ian MacKaye (and only vaguely heard of Fugazi) but the advert on the greenmind mailing list sounded good:
"stripped down variations on the rock song - folk music for punks, if you will. Multifaceted yet efficient, straightforward yet sublime, their sound relies on intimacy as much as intensity, their lyrics as politically charged as they are emotionally wrought. Yet at the heart of the band's dynamic is a certain quietitude and sensitivity that ties all this together into a strong pop sensibility."
Besides, the gig was advertised as being early-finishing and NO SMOKING. We decided that for a fiver, it was probably worth going if only to contribute to the message that people will still come to gigs even if they're forced to do uncool things like, er, get home before midnight. Or breathe.

At first sight they're an unassuming pair: a balding man in tshirt and slacks, and a pale girl in jeans and blouse with her hair pulled into a high ponytail. These guys do not look like rock stars. They don't look like punks. They don't even look like folk singers. Indeed, it only becomes apparent that these guys who are shuffling around the tiny stage setting up the piles of equipment actually are the band when the chap sits down on a stool and picks up a guitar.

From that point on, there's no doubt.

The music is not just stripped down, it's sandblasted; the result is somewhere between punk showing its emotional scar tissue and folk showing its political teeth. Every drumbeat is a bruise, every chord is a handful of fingernails down the listener's spine. But the band's real strength is in their voices: fierce, full of controlled power and outbursts of raw energy. When they sing in unison or an octave apart, the effect is sparse, spacious; when they share a single melody between them, passing it back and forth, it's like a seamless turn of the stereo dial.

"I'm losing my voice," MacKaye says, after visibly straining for the first time to get a couple of quiet falsetto notes, "but never mind, it'll come back." It does. Later, for a quiet number, he asks for the air-conditioning to be turned off so we can hear better: his request is immediately granted, and the resulting more-than-silence is electrifying. In the small, now-stifling back room, the audience gives the song a focused and unwavering attention that's rarely seen outside classical concerts; it's amazing that two people can make so much noise, but it's no less amazing that a hundred or so people can make so little noise.

It would be easy for such high-tension music to result in an unbreachable wall between band and audience; perhaps the small room helps counteract this, but whatever the reason, the actuality is quite the opposite. Between the songs MacKaye makes eye contact, talks to individuals in the audience, tells jokes, even demands audience participation on one song; Farina either acts as his foil or remains silent, with an amused half-smile from the shadows of the drum-kit at him or the audience. The lights remain on throughout the gig; we're all acutely aware of each other, of the band, of the human contact between us all, to the point where it's almost uncomfortable sometimes -- particularly from my vantage point at front-centre of the room -- to be so close to someone who's singing such stark and uncompromising poetry, such heartfelt protests.

After a couple of encores, requests are taken for the last song. The shouter-out of the request which is played also asks "Could the short people come to the front?" "Yeah, let's do that," says MacKaye. How many gigs have you been to where you'd even be able to make a request like that, let alone expect it to be granted? But we dutifully shuffle around like a school assembly until everybody can see, and they finish with "You Won't Feel A Thing" -- Sit back. Relax. You won't feel a thing .... until the day you wake up.

The final storm of applause breaks the spell, and we wake up, and we feel it. Straight-edge? This is razor-edge, cutting through the airwaves. It does affect you. It does connect you. Watch it reflect you.

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Comments
From: rgl Date: March 28th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
The album's good too... and cheap, of course, given Dischord's pricing policy. I keep meaning to take advantage of this and buy some Fugazi as well, given they influenced a good proportion of the bands who I like, but I feel guilty about buying music that isn't new.
j4 From: j4 Date: March 28th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I bought the album at the gig, on vinyl ("£8 if you've got exact change, £10 if you haven't") ... and then had to walk home because I couldn't safely* transport an LP on my bike. :-) Worth it though!

I feel guilty about buying music that isn't new

Why's that?

* safely for the LP, that is.
From: rgl Date: March 28th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm worried that I might end up only listening to music that sounds like music I already know, which is a route to ever-diminishing returns. I think if I want to have the chance of occasionally discovering something that really amazes me then I have to make sure to push myself to look for new things. Or, at least, they have to be new to me, which buying music that influenced people I like isn't, really, though buying 80-year-old classical music is probably OK. I realise this is probably all some weird Protestant work ethic applied to music appreciation.
burkesworks From: burkesworks Date: March 28th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe I'm just an old, decadent rockist, but the attitude of people like Ian MacKaye make me want to snort a couple of big fat lines of coke and start throwing televisions off the roofs of Grand Hyatt hotels.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: April 1st, 2006 12:15 am (UTC) (Link)

I could happily read your gig reviews all day. :-)
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