Cursive @ Mohawk Place

. : : March 30th, 2012 : : .

In university, I fell in love with Cursive.

Hot on the tails of The Ugly Organ album, the follow up to their scorching hit, Domestica, the albums never left my, ahem, 128mb mp3 player. I couldn’t tell you how many times I listened to those discs on my travels in and about the streets of Ottawa. The previous summer, the band was scheduled for the Cure‘s Curiosa festival tour — and performed on each and every one of the tour dates, except Toronto. A couple of other tours, for both The Ugly Organ and their 2006 follow-up, Happy Hollow, still kept them on the south side of the border. So, a friend whom I’d turned onto the band and I made a pact: anytime the band would hit Buffalo, NY, we would make a day trip across the border for the show.

Of course, no sooner did we make the pact than Cursive began playing shows here — starting with an opening slot for Mastadon during the last round of Happy Hollow tours. It wasn’t until the NEXT disc, Mama, I’m Swollen, that the band performed a headlining set in Toronto, but the pact stood: we’d be seeing them twice on every go about, if they continued to grace us with their presence.

The road trip concert always has an extra air of excitement about it. Having to climb into a car, drive several hours, get through customs — all much more work than simply rolling out of bed and onto a subway car. The sights and sounds of a new city, the unfamiliar venues, different crowds, everything is exaggerated.

When the band announced they would be bringing the tour for their newly released album, I Am Gemini, back to Mohawk Place, the smaller, more intimate of the two venues I’d visited in Buffalo, we knew we had to go. We had plans to make a couple of stops on the way to the venue, but a slightly delayed start mixed with rush hour traffic meant that we weren’t in Buffalo until well after the doors time.

Walking into the venue, I sighed a breath of relief. The show had sold out in advance, and luckily, we had thought ahead to order our tickets online. We arrived just at the right time; shortly after positioning myself in the best available taping spot, the venue quickly began to fill up. Before the first of two opening acts, the venue was virtually wall-to-wall people.

Not unlike my recent Nada Surf review, Cursive’s latest disc is far and away my least favourite of theirs in a decade’s worth of albums and EPs. The album was conceived, written and recorded as a play performed to music: the liner notes are literally the stage play, complete with character listings and stage directions. The intentions are lofty, admirable, and if nothing else, interesting, but I can’t help but feel the songs themselves suffer for the conceit.

It was clear pretty quickly that I’m in the minority with that particular opinion. The crowd was fired up, head banging, fist pumping, singing every word, right from the beginning of This House Alive, the opening track from the album. But Cursive has never been a band to shy away from their roots, and without a moment’s breath, immediately jumped into the one-two punch of Happy Hollow‘s Big Bang and Ugly Organ‘s A Gentleman Caller. In fact, the band’s set virtually bled from song into song for the first half an hour!

The crowd hung on enthusiastically for the joyride as the band jumped from era to era, covering the bases as far back as Domestica and the Burst and Bloom EP, but culling mostly from the later work. Actually, coming from out of town really allowed me to appreciate a foreign audience. Without yelling in neighbours ears, slamming into other people, pushing up to the front after showing up late, or otherwise being a terrible nuisance, the crowd still seemed to have a wonderful time. And after the band left the stage and the lights lingered off, the crowd legitimately called for an honest-to-goodness encore. Of course, the band’s rehearsed encore had already been played, but the band didn’t leave the stage before playing it due to space limitations (not to mention a lack of pre-arranged shots in the back). Regardless, there was a couple of minutes when I thought the crowd would stubbornly hold steady until the band came back out anyway. Alas, when the lights went back on and music begin to play over the PA, people begin to disperse with resignation.

One fellow clutched on to the dream though. “Aren’t we Buffalo?” he cried as people passed him. “Let’s show them what Buffalo’s made of!” he practically begged. The band wasn’t coming back out for a second encore, but I’m pretty sure they already knew.

The recording turned out quite well — my only somewhat minor complaint is that, somehow, the guitars ended up a little low in the mix. Clear, crisp, precise, this is a great capture of a fun performance. I can’t thank everyone involved enough for a great time. Well worth the trip — when can we do it again?

01. [introduction]
02. This House Alive
03. Big Bang
04. A Gentleman Caller
05. The Cat and Mouse
06. Retreat!
07. A Red So Deep
08. The Sun and Moon
09. The Ugly Organ
10. Some Red Handed Slight of Hand
11. The Martyr
12. We’re Going To Hell
13. [banter]
14. A Birthday Bash
15. I Couldn’t Love You
16. The Recluse
17. Wowowow
18. From The Hips
19. [banter]
20. Dorothy at 40
21. Sink To The Beat
22. Art Is Hard
23. Eulogy For No Name

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
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A Gentleman Caller (Live In Buffalo) [MP3 sample]

Extra thanks to Cursive, Mohawk Place, and the wonderful city of Buffalo for hosting a couple of gents from the T-dot.

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