words & photos by Natasha Ryan
"We're going to do our sound check now, usually we have other people do this, but it's the recession," said a joking Tim Kasher as he took the stage nearly an hour after the scheduled 11:30pm slot. Sunday night's (1/18) sold out show at Union Hall in Brooklyn was Omaha based Cursive's third stop of their brief 2009 winter tour; the night before they played Cleveland and spent Sunday making the 470 mile drive to New York. On their previous tour the band concentrated on material from their upcoming album, and Sunday's show offered much of the same, with a healthy amount of older songs dating back to the 1996 release The Disruption.
They began with appropriate opener "Some Red-Handed Sleight of Hand" off The Ugly Organ, as Kasher bellowed, "And now we proudly present / Songs perverse and songs of lament," to the rabid crowd who matched the howls and cries with eerie precision, a display of dedicated fandom always prevalent during the live shows. Using the meticulous formula of playing beloved sing-a-longs while slyly slipping in foreign tracks, Cursive found the perfect pacing for the set, keeping the energy high and the audience engaged. The sound from the unreleased album Mama, I'm Swollen is not surprisingly different than 2006's Happy Hallow; it's moodier than the vivacious rhythmic arrangements of the acclaimed album and returns to slower, darker renditions more akin to earlier recordings.
In true fashion, Cursive's songs were broken up by humorous rants from Kasher and passive aggressive exchanges with the audience teetering on the brink of seriousness yet duly self-aware of the symbiotic relationship. "Who said fuck you? Come up on stage!" Kasher screamed, in response to a cliched taunt from one audience member. "You sir, are going to buy me a double shot of Jameson for knocking my drink over. During Thanksgiving, when you're sitting with your family eating dinner- I'm going to come in and shout fuck you too!" It might seem abrasive on paper, but the playful rowdiness often serves as a notable function of his stage persona. Surprisingly, during "Art is Hard" former member Gretta Cohn did not come out on stage to play cello, though her Brooklyn based band Twin Thousands opened the show.
Towards the end of the set a giddy Kasher informed the crowd of his proposal to his girlfriend earlier that day, and then brought her up to briefly make out on stage. It was just the beginning of the strange antics that later ensued, with Kasher's frequent signature facial contortions and silly inebriated ramblings, at one point claiming he wanted to blow up a building. The loud set was rough and almost deafening at times due to the sound at Union Hall, but it never detracted from the experience. For the encore Kasher promised, "We're not pandering, we just want to play these songs," and dived off the stage during "Sierra", knocking beers over and dragging the microphone stand to belt out the anthem in the middle of the floor.
McCarthy Trenching also opened, and then Cursive played Mercury Lounge in Manhattan the next day. You can next catch Cursive in March when they play the suitably sized venues (3/09) Music Hall of Williamsburg and (3/10) Bowery Ballroom.
More pictures & Cursive's setlist below...
More Cursive dates HERE.
Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand
Sink to the beat
Couldn't love you Anymore
Opening the Hymnal / Babies
From the Hips
Driftwood: A Fairy Tale
Dorothy at Forty
Mama, I'm Swollen
Disruption in the normal swing of things
Art is Hard
What have I done
Mama, I'm Satan