. : : July 31st, 2009 : : .
Friends had been encouraging me to get into Cursive for some time by the time I actually came around and eventually fell in love.
Most fans discover Cursive frontman Tim Kasher‘s side project The Good Life via fandom of the former. I did it backwards. A friend sent me a song or two of the Good Life’s brand new album (at the time), Album of the Year. I instantly fell in love, acquired the band’s back catalogue, and made it the soundtrack to my life. However, a desire for more music lead me to check out Kasher’s other band, Cursive, which I had always deemed too aggressive and angry for my particular taste. Somehow, the first song I came across was the last song on what is perhaps the band’s biggest success, the Domestica album, The Night I Lost The Will To Fight. It was mellower, which eased me in a bit, but sullen and full of angst and heartbreak. I expanded to The Ugly Organ, a grandiose concept album filled with interesting autobiographical self-reflexiveness (ie. drawing attention to the album’s own liner notes). For several months, if it wasn’t penned by Tim Kasher, I probably wasn’t listening to it.
The problem was, tour after tour was announced, and the band never made it across the northern border. In fact, the date in Canada was one of the only ones on the Curiosa festival in the summer of 2003 that the band didn’t play. When a show was finally announced some years later, in 2007 at the end of the Happy Hollow tour, it was as a second opening slot for a co-headling show — ie. third on the bill. The tickets were expensive, the set was short, and the venue was predictably garbage. So, when the band began announcing dates for their surprise album Mama, I’m Swollen, which was released something like six short weeks after it was announced, as soon as a $12 show in Buffalo came up, it was a no-brainer. I would be making the trip. Sure, Toronto would also be announced as a date, but for $12? I had lost time to make up for, and it could hardly be more affordable.
The car ride was long — after work for both myself and my companion — and without much time for food or rest. In fact, by the time we arrived at the venue, the first band had already started and the room had mostly started the fill up. The venue was situated exceptionally odd. The stage is at the end of a long, somewhat rectangular room, but rather than facing lengthwise, it actually faces widthwise. It definitely allowed for some interesting and unusual sightlines, but once the venue got packed, the best views were either right up front or way off to one side.
Cursive’s sound is challenging to ANY venue. The band places with such emphasis on bass and low-end frequencies (down-tuned guitars, thudding kick drums, etc) that they’d probably sound pretty mucky in the best of venues. So, to be fair, the sound at the Tralf Music Hall is actually probably very good. But that night, it was a bit uneven as voice and keyboards often fought for power. Furthermore, it was apparent that the band, or at least Kasher, started the party early backstage, and came out drunk as a skunk. He slurred his way through the first half-dozen songs, much to the crowd of drunken frat boys glee. Between the drinking and the rocking, barely a word of banter was spoken the whole evening, even as Kasher audibly sobered up. But no one was heard complaining.
In fact, just the opposite: the setlist flowed amazingly, several songs segueing into the next in flawless transition. Songs old and new were about, obscure tracks strung alongside obvious singles. Songs such as The Game Of Who Needs Who The Worst featured awesome jazzy/jamming make-overs. The energy on-stage and off was palpable. And by the time the band left the stage after a single encore, it was all worth it. The wait, the drive, the late night, the napping in a McDonalds parking lot just north of the border, the challenging venue. It was all worth it, and I would be glad to do it again the next night in Toronto.
The recording was just re-EQ’d to minimize as much of the aforementioned sound problems as possible, but is an old minidisc recording, and far from perfect. I’m impressed with the improvement over the straight master recording, but is still roughly a B/B-. As was increasingly a problem with the aging MiniDisc recorder, there are inexplicable drop-outs throughout that never last for more than a second or so — but number near a dozen. Alas.
01. Mama, I’m Satan
02. A Gentleman Caller
03. Dorothy Dreams of Tornadoes
04. The Great Decay
05. From The Hips
06. Butcher The Song
07. The Radiator Hums
08. Bad Sects
09. Art Is Hard
10. The Game of Who Needs Who The Worst
11. Mama, I’m Swollen
13. Staying Alive > [encore]
14. Big Bang
15. I Couldn’t Love You
16. The Recluse
17. The Martyr
Thanks to Cursive, The Tralf Music Hall, the city of Buffalo and McDonald fries at 5am.