[Image via Lacy Weathersbee]
FEATURE: Mineral / Into It. Over It., Live in Boston – 9.10.14
by Chad Jewett
The Paradise Rock Club is situated in a spare bit of space on Commonwealth Avenue, wedged in between various Boston University buildings. The average walk back to your car takes you along sidewalks festooned with cartoon banners of Rhett, the university’s Terrier mascot. This might partly explain the economy of the Paradise’s architecture, the way in which the club is shaped like a long, horizontal rectangle. Direct views of bands onstage are at a similar premium to open real estate in the city, America’s ultimate college town. More likely one watches performers – in this case post-hardcore trailblazers Mineral and the ever-changing project that is Into It. Over It. – from oblique angles, partly obscured by stacks of PA speakers. The entirety of the club’s performance space is ringed with a wide balcony, giving the Paradise the vague air of an Elizabethan playhouse, somehow apt for a city so defined by academe in one of the few American cities that existed while there were still friends of Shakespeare walking around.
Into It. Over It., the always-flexible outlet for singer-songwriter Evan Weiss, opened the show with a set culled largely from the band’s subtle, expansive 2013 album Intersections. As always, the band continues to excel on-stage, the songs gelling into a long monologue, linked by Weiss’s between-song storytelling and the music’s general aura of quarter-life philosophy. Increasingly, Weiss’s songcraft conjures up thoughts of a punk rock Paul Simon. Like Simon, Weiss writes songs whose narratives spark out from intense, complicated polyrhythms – the complications of the former are reflected in the intensities of the latter. At times, as on the loping “New North-Side Air” you find the song’s story providing a helpful through-line, coursing above a surprisingly tricky, playful groove. The band handles those cross-hatched structures with aplomb, but just as impressive is the way that Weiss refuses to ever sacrifice complexity. Into It. Over It.’s songs are difficult, but embracing, especially in the live setting.
It’s a bit harder to know how to feel about who Mineral is in 2014, and how they’ve come to understand the mercurial, archly Romantic confessionalism of EndSerenading and The Power of Failing. Certainly those album’s melodies – winding and melodramatic and seemingly shaped more for expression than anything like “hooks” – ask a lot from Chris Simpson, nearly twenty years older than he was when he first sang them, and worlds different as an artist (especially as a singer). Indeed, hearing the first two singles from Simpson’s upcoming solo album (under the name Zookeeper) and the concise, economic tunefulness to be found there, one can’t help but sympathize with the ways in which Simpson has to find new footing in old songs. Much of this stuff is now at the very top of his range. Some of it might even be outside of it now. How does one sing songs that were recorded not for their precision or even for any real concrete melody, but instead for emotional performance? Simpson seems to be trying to work this out with each song, and the process seems frustrating.
The same might also be said about the song’s lyrics, which remain poignant even if they are also starkly adolescent. For all that the band seems to genuinely enjoy returning to these records – and, likely, their memories of these records – one can’t help but wonder what Mineral means to Mineral. Simpson curtly says “thank you so much” (or a very close variation) after each song. Otherwise he jokes about seeing everyone in 2034 (i.e., in another twenty years). Yet it remains very, very clear that people are deeply invested in this band. I overhear several conversations and read scores of facial expressions that simply marvel at the fact that Mineral is even there to be seen at all. Considering that it has more or less been impossible to find a new copy of either of the band’s full-lengths for more than a decade (the line at the merch table, to purchase the vinyl reissues of those records, is long and permanent for most of the night), that incredulity is understandable. Given that Mineral is precisely the sort of band you internalize in part because they were so ephemeral, the overwhelming enthusiasm of the audience is understandable too. It’s a funny thing to find one’s self watching a band that people seemingly loved because they evaporated so quickly. It’s a funny thing to see a new, celebrated beginning for a band so taken with failures and endings.