What can be made of the fact that Cursive only drew 800 last night at Sokol Underground? Some might say that the number is significant in its diminutiveness, a bellwether of sorts of the lagging interest in either the band and/or indie music in general. Maybe, maybe… But I’m not so sure that it means anything. Cursive just played the same venue in July — had I gone to that one I probably wouldn’t have went last night, either. And then there’s the $14 ticket – the highest price I can remember for a Cursive show, probably due to all the opening bands (who I missed, btw, due to Rutgers). Still, one would hope that a band like Cursive could sell out Sokol Auditorium even at that price, especially when you consider such unfortunate, lame shitmeisters like Hinder easily sell out the place at a higher price. Like everyone else in this scene, I blame radio for our area youths’ poor taste in music. They’ve been indoctrinated to believe growling, talentless swine like Kottonmouth Kings and Slipknot are “important” music worth their time and money. Like I’ve always said, you play anything on the radio over and over and over and the listeners will find something they like about it, which explains why that wretched piece of novelty shit by Psychostick is actually selling (and some would say, also explains Tilly and the Wall).
But I digress…
It was a different sounding Cursive than I’ve seen over the years, a more restrained, almost adult-contemporary version. The 8-piece came out at around 11 amid a cloud of dry-ice smoke. The line-up included a 3-piece horn section (one of them doubled on keyboards) and a cellist. By god, it bordered on being a lounge act. The sound was certainly more refined than when only the four members play. That version is rowdier, noisier, much more dangerous, and unconcerned if a little thing like melody gets lost in the jangular din. Even when Gretta Cohn was in the band, you rarely could hear her despite the fact that she was plopped down right up there front and center, obscenely straddling her instrument.
Last night’s cello player got stuck somewhere way in the back, but you could hear every stroke of her bow (Every time I heard Cohn play, she might as well have been playing a cardboard cut-out of a cello). Whether it’s their new songs or the arrangements or the deft touch of the soundman, utter noise no longer dominates the ensemble. Cursive has become less metal and more mellow, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I noticed early in the set that a stone sober Tim Kasher was doing a lot of finger-pointed pontificating along withother weird hand gestures while he sang (At one point, he sang while holding the back of his right hand against his left cheek. Try that right now and imagine how odd it looks). It didn’t dawn on me until about halfway through the set that the only way he could be doing all those gestures was by not playing his guitar. Ted Stevens now is the dominate guitar player, and maybe always has been, though I remember Kasher being much bolder with his ax in the old days.
All that instrumental restraint meant that Kasher was much more out front with his vocals, which have never sounded better — maybe because this was the first show of the tour and he’s well-rested. Kasher showed his full vocal range, from the low death rattle to the usual Robert Smith-ian howl, to the classic bluesman grunt to a girlish falsetto complete with high-pitched squeal. Rarely has he sang with such broad, emotional range.
The set, however, seemed short, though the band mixed it up pretty well with material from the last three albums. Songs off Happy Hollow rightfully took the lead. For me, the new songs (“Big Bang” “Dorothy…” “Bad Sects”) were the night’s highlights (but then again, I love the new album) along with the few from Domestica (“Lament for Pretty Baby,” “Night I Lost the Will to Fight”). There were a couple weird interpretive numbers that bordered on noodling, and a few songs that I didn’t recognize where Kasher seemed to be wandering.
Keeping with the restraint theme, even Kasher’s between-song monologues — which can go on for five minutes or more — were kept to a minimum. There was only one real rant about five songs in where he declared his unconditional love for Nebraska, saying that if you’re from Nebraska, it’s okay to say it sucks, but if you’re not, than fuck you, or something along those lines. Kasher said he feels safe in Nebraska “but not in some sort of weird, racial way.” (I’m paraphrasing.) He later introduced the band but skipped the core line-up, only saying “these guys are trying their hardest to smile tonight.” What the hell did that mean?
Tonight we all have to squeeze into The 49’r for The Terminals CD release show with The Shanks and Now Archimedes! I see from perusing the Star City webboard that CDs will be in hand and available. I suggest you go to the show and buy one along with a copy of The Shanks’ new 7-inch. You may also want to pick up a record player at Sol’s or Best Buy while you’re driving around… you’ll need it.
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