Live Review: Malpais, The Narrator, Cursive; the rainbow sets in Orlando; The Monroes tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 4:07 pm June 1, 2007

I think last night was the first time I’ve had trouble finding parking in Benson, which makes sense since there were three shows including the sold-out Cursive show going on. I found one, though, and was pleasantly surprised to see my name on two separate guest lists. It was the most packed I’ve ever seen The Waiting Room, more packed than the Faint show even.

Malpais was up first featuring guitarist/vocalist Greg Loftis. Denver Dalley was not in the house, he was in LA I guess. Loftis says he’s still writing songs with Denver, but that he’s a tough one to pin down. So’s Loftis for that matter. Backing him were four local musicians. So including Loftis, there were three guitars, a bass and drums. I’m told that the supporting cast was a supergroup of musicians who have been surviving just under the indie/Creek radar for almost a decade and included former members of Mandown and Split Second. Talented chaps, all, especially the bass player. Of course, none of the music that they played even remotely resembled the tracks that Loftis had e-mailed me. There was no cooing Simon and Garfunkel vocals — apologies to anyone who read my write-up yesterday. Loftis said since he was opening for Cursive, he had to bring the rock, which he did — a straight-up back-beat brand of rock influenced more by ’70s FM than current-day indie, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The style was slightly all over the place — probably because it was the band’s first gig ever. Also for the first time, sound mix at TWR was muddy and unbalanced. Still, not bad for a first show, which just happened to be a sold-out gig for Cursive. The band closed with a song from Loftis’s other band, An Iris Pattern. He told me afterward that An Iris Pattern has essentially morphed into Malpais (which I guess means An Iris Pattern no longer exists). Loftis said the band is headed into ARC Studios later this month to record, and also will lay down some tracks at Bassline.

The Narrator was next — a four-piece indie rock band from Chicago that sports two vocalists who share frontman duties. Their style is indie slacker-chic both in sound and appearance. I heard echoes of early Pavement, Superchunk and late-’90s Lawrence punk bands (one song sounded like an old Vitreous Humor track — an act I’m sure they’ve never heard of). These guys have played Omaha and Lincoln a few times, and even took a moment to thank all those who had caught them playing with Gnome Slaughterhouse down at Sokol. The crowd seemed to get into it, and the band knew that Cursive was the main event. And as it happened, last night was The Narrator’s first show on their tour, while it was Cursive’s last.

(Colorful aside: Throughout the evening I leaned against the wall over by the “employees only” door, which swung open all night as various band members entered and exited the backstage green room. During The Narrator set, a shortish, big-necked guy asked me if I was security. When I told him I wasn’t, he said “Go back there, man, there’s a room full of beer. Just go back there and take some.” Then he handed me a Miller Lite. “Here, take one.” I grabbed the beer and set it on the shelf I was leaning on, showed him my Rolling Rock and told him I’d have it later. “Dude, what kind of music does Cursive play? Is it louder than this?” I told him it was super loud. “Because maybe you can help me get a moshpit going in front of the stage. All’s anyone seems to be doing here is standing around.” I explained that while Cursive plays an abrasive punk-influenced rock, it’s not really designed for moshing. There is no driving straight-four hard-core rhythms. He looked a bit disappointed. “Well, I’m going up front to push people around anyway. I hope they don’t mind.” He came back about five minutes later and asked for the Miller Lite back. Needless to say, there was no moshing.)

Cursive came on stage dressed for the occasions — in tuxedoes. Tim Kasher even wore tails. But despite the formalwear, the set started out a bit rough. Kasher’s voice seemed somewhat worse for wear — understandable after a month-long tour. The way he screams I don’t know how he manages to even talk the next day. The rest of the band also seemed a bit off kilter, a bit sloppy. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. “You know what that’s called?” Kasher said about 15 minutes into the set. “That’s called phoning it in. I just phoned it in. I’m looking at a roomful of strangers tonight.” No idea what that meant. Was he being ironic? The band had at least 50 people on their guest list. He went on to tell the audience to forget the first five songs. “We’re starting right now.” It was kind of like he rebooted the band. The next 45 minutes was first-tier Cursive, Kasher even sang better. They ripped through most of Happy Hollow, which sounded great live. This was the first time I’d seen them perform with their little horn section, and for the most part, it worked. The band also performed a couple songs from Domestica and The Ugly Organ. Kasher apologized for his manic behavior. “I love all of you guys again,” he said toward the end of the set. “I’m back.” The band returned to the stage for a two-song encore that started with “Big Bang.” Standing off stage left was former Cursive drummer Clint Schnase. A few moments into the song, Ted Stevens handed his guitar to Schnase, who took the stage and played along with the rest of the band while Stevens tooted on a clarinet. After the song ended, he handed the guitar back to Stevens, and then disappeared into the crowd.

I will say this: Cursive’s new drummer is pretty freakin’ good. I didn’t think anyone would be able to take over the kit from Schnase, but whoever this guy was, he did the trick. He has a different style — it’s less compact and precise as Schnase’s, but has a similar bombastic quality. No idea who he was (he’s probably a some sort of legend, which shows you what I know) or if he’s going to be a permanent member of the band. Kasher said he was off to LA today to spend the summer in the Golden State. What happens next is anyone’s guess, though there’s a completed Good Life CD just waiting to be released by Saddle Creek.

* * *

Add yet another local musician to the list of local talent that’s moving away from “The Heartland” (what a horrible phrase). The Show Is the Rainbow‘s Darren Keen e-mailed me to say that he’s moving to Orlando Florida on July 1. Why? “I am moving because my best friends’ band, YIP-YIP, live in Orlando and a spot opened up in their house. It’s going to be very fun to live with them,” Keen said.

I mention this because The Show Is the Rainbow is playing at The Waiting Room tonight. Keen said he doesn’t consider it a going away gig. “I’ll probably book a show in Lincoln, too,” he said, adding that any June dates could be his last in Nebraska for awhile. “I’ll be back on tour like three times a year though. Duh!!! I’m stoked. Orlando is warm and awesome.” That it is, Darren. That is is. Playing with TSITR is Talkin Mountain & FTL Drive. $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

Lots of Lincoln dudes in town tonight. Other than Keen, Ideal Cleaners and Domestica are playing over at O’Leaver’s with The Monroes. $5, 9:30 p.m. Good times.

As for the rest of the weekend:

Punk rock’s angry bastards The Shanks are playing at O’Leaver’s Saturday night with Scott Severin and The Upsets — $5, 9:30 p.m.

And The Waiting Room is doing up alt-country Saturday night with The Weary Boys, The Black Squirrels and The Prime Time Pickers. $10, 9 p.m.

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