If there’s only one man and one woman in music that truly believe what they are saying, than those two people are Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina. On December 6, 2006 the guitar/drums duo the Evens proved just how genuine they are in their belief to a packed house of ageing punkers, trendy hipsters, and even a few grade schoolers at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia.
With emotionally charged music, the question of just how much the band really feels their music when playing it live comes into play when a band plays a string of tour dates. Certainly bands channel their rage, frustration, anger, and joy onto their records, but after playing these songs night after night after night after night, just where does the feeling behind the song end and mechanical motions forged from repetition begin? If we are to use MacKaye and Farina as a template, apparently never. Since the sound of the Evens is the child of sparse music merged with idealistic emotion, truth in playing is what gives their songs life. Were they simply going through the motions, the music would have come off as stilted and forced. However, Farina and Mackaye fluidly drifted into songs, alternatively allowing the harmony of their voices to fill the body of the songs and letting simple notes show the skeletons of the notes. A pause here, a fade-out there, and a hard down stroke-laced together showing that when the duo sing their lyrics, they are feeling the meaning behind their words just as much as the day they recorded them.
Fittingly, songs which used emotion to carry the feeling rather than the rhythm were the stars of the night. When Mackaye sang “Everybody knows you are a liar,” The President could almost be seen peeping his head from the side curtains. When Farina used her beautiful alto to mourn that she saw a person “made of plastic ingredients sliced and diced” it was as if a Hollywood superstar was on a dissection table next to her.
To further press how much they believed in the message of their songs, the Evens restricted the set list to just songs from the Evens records, ignoring the massive back catalogue from their former bands (Fugazi, Minor Threat, the Warmers, and about a dozen other super influential bands). The duo’s choice to stick to their current material mirrored the messages of both Evens records: What’s happening now is what is important. The past is over and there are battles ahead of us, not behind.
Between each song, MacKaye and Farina would banter with the audience that seemed partially ad-libbed and partially pre-scripted, much like late night television talk show hosts. MacKaye related amusing monologues throughout the set with Farina acting as his Paul Shaeffer, bolstering his jokes and extending them. The laid back atmosphere allowed the truthfulness in their songs and statements reach full potential. Without the shiny gloss of a rock concert, or even the machismo of the average punk concert, the audience could hear MacKaye actually speak his mind and ponder the implications, rather than just mindlessly shouting a chorus back in unison. So, the new Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina are here. Laid back, yet in control -- like Leno. Whimsical, yet serious -- like Jon Stewart. Adaptable, yet structured -- like Letterman. Well, if the Evens are the talk show hosts of indie music, then it looks like staying up late just got a lot more attractive.