Portland – Do you remember high school? Do you remember driving around the suburbs in your parents’ car with a cracked Taking Back Sunday or Bright Eyes jewel case baking in the sun on the dash? You were bursting with that new found feeling of being so sad it made you happy or so happy it made you sad, it was unclear which. You were latching on to raw, unguarded lyrics along the lines of “When you hold me I’ll feel held” and “I know a few chords that could make you miss me” and scrawling them on your textbooks and the sides of your sneakers. You were, in short, emo.
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP) remember. They remember so hard that they wrote those very lyrics and set them to earnest arpeggios and big, aching builds on their 2013 LP, Whenever, If Ever, an album which has accurately been described as “emo revival.” Most of the press about the TWIABP claims that the emo they are reviving is the hipper second wave variety—practiced by bands such as American Football and Sunny Day Real Estate in the nineties—but I’ll be damned if I don’t hear an endearing bit of third wave emo in all of its dorky, screaming, Warped Tour glory in TWIABP’s music too.
I first encountered TWIABP through the video for “Low Light Assembly.” Maybe it was because I was reaching the end of my first winter in the grey Pacific Northwest, or because I had been writing for a metal mag and listening almost exclusively to bands that evoke descriptors such as “doom” and “sludge,” but, for whatever reason, this video’s lovely collage of green bubbles and human bodies and hushed vocals affected me about ten times more than I was expecting. I dare you to watch it and not feel some sunlight on your cynical little face.
TWIABP brought some of that same life affirming magic to Portland’s Hawthorne Theater on Tuesday night, opening for indie veterans mewithoutYou. Their cast of players has contracted slightly since the recording of Whenever, If Ever—dropping from ten members to eight—but TWIABP still rolls pretty deep. Their sound check had all the anticipatory bustle and good natured chaos of an amateur theatre rehearsal: a cello was tuned and tested; no less than four vocal mics were adjusted and tapped; and frontman David Bello took his mark at center stage sans instrument, looking like a patient director.
All parts assembled, one of the three guitarists sounded the skittering palm-muted riff of “Heartbeat in the Brain”—the opening track from Whenever, If Ever. While a good portion of the crowd may have been there to see mewithoutYou, it was apparent from the first few bars of the song that there was also a sizeable contingent of TWIABP fans in attendance. There were hand raisers and lyric-mouthers, and at one point in between songs some dude shouted, “Play your entire discography!”
TWIABP ignored that wiseacre’s request, but they did dig into their back catalogue of EP’s, playing “I Will Be Okay. Everything” and “Beverly Wyatt”—two songs from earlier splits. Both tracks are worth a listen, but especially “Beverly Wyatt” for the indelible line, “There should be a scar from the hours we’ve wasted at work.” (How’s that for a phrase to scrawl on your Chucks?)
In deference to mewithoutYou, TWIABP’s set was brief, and it wasn’t long before they were building the inevitable finale, “Getting Sodas.” “Getting Sodas” is the last track on Whenever, If Ever and it serves as a cathartic resolution to the questions of identity and belonging posed throughout the album, ending with this chanted exhortation: “the world is a beautiful place/but we have to make it that way/whenever you find home we’ll make it more than just a shelter/and if everyone belongs there it will hold us all together.”
Big sentiments, to say the least. Some might say too big. But when sung with a crowd of a people they had a genuine power to them, creating the type of communal experience that is all too rare at concerts. Not a bad closer for an opening band.
Don’t fight the feeling; find a tour date here.