Inside the Center Church on the green in downtown New Haven, the modest sized audience was as “quiet as little church mice,” Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. joked. The all acoustic show built in intensity throughout the evening and gave the crowd a real glimpse into the personalities of the musicians. Laura Stevenson opened with her gentle voice and sharp wit, Kevin Devine followed with laughter and passion, then Into It. Over it. brought home the night with nervous energy and a booming voice. Weiss, who took every opportunity between songs to fill the fans in on his thought process, explained that such a stripped down show forced the musicians to be themselves. Without band members backing them and other personalities to bounce off of, the musicians turned to the audience for interactions, and this audience did not disappoint.
Laura Stevenson sat on a padded folding chair for her set after racing to the back of the room to retrieve her bottle of water. She joked that she was completely out of breath; typical of the lifestyle of a musician. Throughout her set, which was filled with biting emotions, she was smiling. As she arranged her capo and strummed a chord, she immediately repositioned it, clarifying, “No, sadder than that.” Stevenson gave the incredibly quiet congregation a slight nod to mark the end of her songs and was treated to solid applause each time.
Kevin Devine descended from the balcony seating to take the stage. He appeared to be the most comfortable of the three musicians to perform alone; his entire demeanor was laid back and conversational. Devine stepped away from the microphone while he played and swayed back and forth to the music. He stepped right up to the front pews to make eye contact with the fans. There was no need for Devine to sing into the mic and he often stood back to belt out notes. When he asked for requests, several people shouted out song titles. One of them was so old, Guys With Record Collections, Devine immediately decided he would play it. He warned with a sly smile that if it went wrong, it was on the fan that requested it. During a Q&A portion while Devine tuned his guitar, the assemblage learend that while he loves original Cap’n Crunch, the Peanut Butter version is garbage. His set included covers of Mathew Caws of Nada Surf’s Inside Of Love and Bad Books’ It Never Stops as well as a new original song.
Evan Weiss, who was heard light heartedly heckling from the balcony during Devine’s set, was a ball of energy. Although he admitted he was nervous playing by himself, his songs were performed intensely and full of confidence. He pounded out the melody on his guitar and his voice aggressively attacked the lyrics. That’s not to say he was without dynamics; far from it. Weiss was audibly choked up during Connecticut Steps, a song written for a friend that passed away. He was the most outgoing and engaging musician of the night, recalling jokes from Devine’s previous set. When he fudged the lyrics of a song, he explained that he was thinking about his favorite cereal and laughed during the intro of his final song of the night, Anchor, because he couldn’t stop thinking about the preacher in the stained glass window behind him.
While I had never seen any of the musicians perform live before, I now have a hard time picturing them performing with their respective bands. There’s something that much more intimate about an acoustic performance and there’s something special about this space. The artists love the sound that the church acoustics provide and are usually tickled to be able swear inside the church. To date, none of them have burst into flames.