Live Review: Cursive; OEAA showcase, So-So Sailors tonight; Higgins/Polipnick Saturday; Midlake Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:53 pm December 6, 2013
Cursive at The Waiting Room, Dec. 5, 2013.

Cursive at The Waiting Room, Dec. 5, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

The set list of last night’s Cursive show at The Waiting Room was pretty much what you’d expect from a band recording a live record: A large selection from their entire catalog, going all the way back to their first 7-inch single The Disruption released in ’96 on Lumberjack Records (the embryonic precursor to Saddle Creek Records).

In all, the band played around 20 songs in a set that stretched over an hour and ended with an abbreviated version of “Staying Alive” (the closer off 2003’s The Ugly Organ). The gang came back and played a three-song encore that ended (ironically?) with “Big Bang” from 2006’s Happy Hollow. Mixed in there were the usual favorites like “The Martyr,” “From the Hips,” “Art Is Hard,” “The Casualty,” “Sierra” along with a handful that I simply wasn’t familiar with or didn’t remember.

Chris Machmuller of So-So Sailors (see them tonight at O’Leaver’s) helped fill out the horn parts on saxophone next to Cursive perennial Patrick Newbery, while Megan Siebe of Anniversaire played Gretta Cohn’s parts on cello. I forgot how much I missed hearing a cello with this band.

Cursive's Ted Stevens, right, takes the lead.

Cursive’s Ted Stevens, right, takes the lead.

Throughout the evening they played with workmanlike precision, which also was the set’s only drawback. More often than not, it felt like they were trying their hardest to hit the mark rather than let themselves get lost in the moment. It was sort of like watching a band play on television — you can feel their every effort to do it “just right.” If your chief criticism is that the band played every song flawlessly, you don’t have much to complain about.

But it does beg the question: What makes a good live album? Personal favorites that come to my mind are At Folsom Prison, The Band’s Last Waltz, Frampton Comes Alive, Stop Making Sense, Under a Blood Red Sky and, of course, Cheap Trick at Budokan. Not surprising, none of those are less than 30 years old. I can’t think of one good “indie” live album (I don’t count Nirvana Unplugged because it was recorded in a studio and came out on Geffen and it just doesn’t feel like a live album to me).

What makes those classic live records classic is the sense that you’re hearing something special being captured almost by luck. There’s a unique energy that embodies the performances, a momentum that carries through to the final crowd fade, and a one-of-a-kind quality to each song as if they’re being reinvented on the spot, effortlessly, by musicians caught up in the moment playing strictly by their gut.

And, of course, the off-the-cuff introductions and asides. Cheap Trick’s Budokan wouldn’t be as special without the intro: “I want you to want me!

Well there wasn’t much “off-the-cuff” going on last night as Cursive pounded through the set list one song after the other, intently focused on the finish line. Frontman Kasher provided little if any give-and-take with the audience — a quality that makes for memorable shows. Maybe the lack of snappy patter was first-night jitters and the fact that they know they have two more Thursday nights to try to capture that perfect moment. If you’re lucky you’ll be there when it happens.

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Let’s get to the weekend, the frigid cold weekend…

Will the Arctic blast keep people away from tonight’s mammoth Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards Nominees Showcase going on throughout Benson? We’re talking 50 bands playing at six venues. In years past it was fun to jaunt between clubs throughout the night, but will it be as fun when the windchill is five below? Let’s find out. The OEAA schedule is online right here. If I go to this tonight, it’s unlikely I’ll stray from The Waiting Room, which has the most solid line-up:

7:00-7:35 – The Electroliners
7:50-8:25 – All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
8:40-9:15 – Conchance
9:30-10:05 – Matt Cox Band
10:20-10:55 – Steve Raybine
11:10-11:45 – The Whipkey Three
12:00-12:35 – Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers
12:50-1:25 – John Klemmensen and the Party

As per usual $10 gets you into all six clubs. Plus, Benson First Friday also is happening tonight. Expect crowds and parking issues (don’t forget Larkin Parkin’ across the street from Jake’s).

If you want to avoid the Benson cluster, head over to fabulous O’Leaver’s for So-So Sailors with Des Moines band The River Monks and Brad Hoshaw. $5, 9:30 p.m. Check out some River Monks below:

Also tonight, Saturn Moth plays at Slowdown Jr. with Congruency, Andrew Baille and Diana Arp. Show starts at 9 and is absolutely free.

Saturday evening Almost Music Records in Benson hosts the first in its concert series, performed in the adjoining Solid Jackson Books space. Headlining is Omaha legend Dereck Higgins, with Luke Polipnick Esoteric Trio and Rake Kash (featuring Lonnie Methe). Start time is 7 p.m. and tix are $5.

And then Sunday prog rockers Midlake headlines at The Waiting Room. The Denton Texas band’s new album, Antiphon, was released on ATO Records. Opening is Sarah Jaffe. $13, 9 p.m.

Also Sunday night, The Pines play at Slowdown Jr. with Brad Hoshaw. 8 p.m., $8 Adv./$10 DOS.

Stay warm, people…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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