Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cursive Burst and Bloom at the Middle East

It's a strange revelation when you realize that you have never seen one of your favorite bands live before. Such was the case when I saw that Cursive was coming to Boston with Cymbals Eat Guitars and Conduits. As much as Cursive's albums have meant to me, I had yet to catch a live performance by them. That was remedied when I saw them perform on April 2nd at the Middle East downstairs. It was to be my 3rd show in a row but I was still ready to rock. The night before I was seeing one of my other high school favorites, Converge, and I was looking to continue to ride that same wave of nostalgia with Cursive.

Conduits are a six piece from Omaha that play a moody brand of dream pop. The focus was on singer Jenna Morrison who carried the music well but was very understated at times. Her stage presence was very rigid and I wanted her to break out of her shell during the more dynamic parts. For such a large band, the six-piece had great chemistry. One song in particular had a slinky groove that kind of reminded me of The Black Angels and had my me nodding along with the beat. At other moments, I was reminded of Widowspeak if they embraced louder textures. It was easy to get lost in the lush, spacey soundscape erected around the audience. Overall, they served as an excellent act to open the show. I've since had the opportunity to hear their self-titled debut and it is a fuzzed out sonic treat definitely worth checking out.

I was very excited to see Cymbals Eat Guitars again. If you've been keeping up with the blog, you know I've seen them a few times and they continue to get better with each performance. This one was no exception. I also find them to be a great pairing with Cursive because they too have a sound that celebrates emo before it became a derogatory term and the genre was bastardized by guys wearing eyeliner. They began the set with "...And the Hazy Sea", one of my absolute favorites. Guitarist/vocalist Joseph D'Agostino wasted no time launching into his signature wild, unhinged guitar shredding. Keyboardist Brian Hamilton, as always, proved to be an invaluable asset when it came to livening up the sound, by not only providing a background but strengthening the song as well. The second song they played was a new one that sounded great and they revealed it would be released soon in some fashion. The rest of the set was rounded with favorites from Why There Are Mountains and Lenses Alien. The crowd was loving every second of it and its hard not to be fully enthralled by their inspiring talents, especially when playing their more challenging material like "Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)", which is something to behold.

Cursive came out to some eerie music and a crowd that was exceptionally revved up. They opened with the first track from their new album, I am Gemini, and closed with the last, but what happened in between was pure magic. I almost forgot how much some of their old catalog had meant to me. As I anxiously awaited each song, I kept getting sentimental as unexpected favorites popped up. That's the real beauty of music: the ability to transport you to a time when a song made a significant impact on your life. This was most apparent on songs from The Ugly Organ, especially "The Recluse" which I still knew all the words to and couldn't help but sing along. They played a slightly slowed down version that has the audience in the palm of their hands singing along with lines like "My ego's like my stomach; it keeps shitting what I feed it", which remains one of my favorite lyrics ever penned.

Seeing the new songs live made it evident that they wanted to create a rock oriented record. Songs like "Wowowow" have some seriously complex parts with dual guitar shredding from frontman Tim Kasher and guitarist Ted Stevens. Patrick Newport, who also played in Conduits, added wonderful flourishes with his trumpet playing and tasteful keyboard parts. The trumpet in "From the Hips" helped the track rise to a heart-pounding crescendo that ended the regular set in grand fashion. The encore was a four song sampler that crossed their entire catalog. "Sink to the Beat" had the best crowd participation with everyone screaming the "Let it burst and bloom!" part.

Kasher was quite the showman and much more hilarious and animated than I was expecting. He joked throughout the set, even at one point saying he wanted to "titfuck" the crowd then cleaned it up as "breastfuck". As with any good concert experience, the audience had a great deal to do with the atmosphere. Kasher was very grateful for the exuberant crowd and playfully stated that the concert made him feel 35 again and added "It's Monday, but whatever's going on tomorrow doesn't have to happen, right?" He also gave a very sincere thanks to the opening bands. The night started as a nostalgic trip but new memories were clearly being made. Although met with mixed reviews, a trend for post-Ugly Organ albums, I went back and listened to I am Gemini again and it just might be the most underrated album of.the year. You'd be wise to at least give it a spin and definitely don't miss any of these bands if they come to your town!

This House Alive
Big Bang
A Gentleman Caller
The Cat and Mouse
A Red So Deep
The Sun and Moon
Driftwood: A Fairy Tale
We're Going to Hell
The Martyr
Twin Dragon / Hello Skeleton
I Couldn't Love You
The Recluse
From the Hips

Dorothy at Forty
Sink to the Beat
Art is Hard
Eulogy for No Name

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