Tears, booze, sex, pain, martyrdom, regret. Against my better judgment, I was singing along with the band. I was singing carefully, with my eyes closed and likely a smile creeping up in the corners of my mouth. I couldn't help it, it came from within, as much as that particular act generally annoys me in packed settings. The swell of angular guitar and thundering drums pulled back mostly leaving higher octave vocals from a scale that slides to and fro: "Your tears are only alibis/To prove you still feel/You only feel sorry for yourself/Well get on that cross/That's all you're good for."
It was mid-song ("The Martyr," 2000's Domestica), mid-set (Noise Pop), of Cursive's likely sold-out performance at Great American Music Hall. I opened my eyes, scanned the room, and saw we were all singing along breathlessly. Plaid-shirted forearms thrust towards stage, fringed heads bobbing, and everyone within earshot hollering towards the center. There in the middle stood grizzled singer-guitarist Tim Kasher, leader of the Omaha-bred longtime Saddle Creek Records fixture Cursive, as well as the Good Life. Parsing his words carefully, Kasher spoke for nearly the first time after a quick-fire opening shot of beloved Domestica and Ugly Organ tracks, interspersed with brand newer, understandably less-clapped-for I Am Gemini cuts. "Let's get candid," he understated.
As with the folly of any continuous lovers, there was ecstasy and there was heartbreak. Dashing Kasher, the classic storyteller, the frog-croaking boozehound, inspires great emotion in his followers, only those who've been with him for quite some time – say, more than a decade – may question the direction of sound. Cello out, trumpet in. Perhaps it was projection, but it appeared the crowd and Kasher were mutually orgasmic during early career, well-worn classics, and likewise, faking it to get through the newer ones.
Ending the official set with "Art is Hard" (later explaining he'd be back for an encore, after taking a shot), Kasher reminded us why we were there, because making art is indeed hard and trying, and thrilling and sometimes, routine. "Fall in love to fail - to boost your CD sales.” It's pulling all those creative types like taffy, up to fame, sideways to monotony, and sometimes, down with it, but if you don't have a soundtrack to the downward spiral of inventive misery, well, all else is lost too: "You gotta' sink to swim."
All photos by Chris Stevens.
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