Cursive have been impressing a cultish following with their emotive, literary-minded indie since 2000 concept album Domestica, if not earlier. They're from Omaha, which in better weather would be just a little more than a couple of hours away (I've only been there once, so I'm relying heavily on Google Maps here). And they're on the prominent Saddle Creek label, whose biggest name, Bright Eyes, I've been listening to since downloading "Something Vague" off of a defunct file-sharing service called AudioGalaxy. So I should definitely know them a lot better. But they should probably know Des Moines a lot better, too. It's not that there wasn't a strong turnout for their show at Vaudeville Mews on Saturday night-- there was, if not quite a sellout-- and if the crowd was pretty subdued, you could blame it on the early set time (the show was all-ages) or just, as my friend Tom at The Great Pumpkin blog tweeted, your typical intent Cursive crowd.
Still, it felt like Cursive frontman Tim Kasher, now 35, sensed the unnecessary distance, like a Dickens character realizing he should've spent more Christmases with his kind-hearted nephew. Or cousin. "I guess we're cousins," Kasher remarked at one point. "We should be sitting around eating hamsteaks." (My notes are a little less clear on the second half of that quote.) One reason Cursive and Des Moines might not be on a closer basis is the customary three-year gaps between albums, with various side projects in between; another is that Kasher moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter and now lives in Montana, as Joe Lawler reported in the Register.
Anyway, the crowd seemed particularly tall for this show, so I didn't get a great look at the stage-- but you know that already from the latest bad iPhone photo (the awesomely retro Polaroids of the future!). The set was understandably tilted toward songs from Cursive's new album, Mama, I'm Swollen, which didn't blow me away, but they still definitely sounded like a solid, practiced band, addressing weighty topics-- in one lyric, God was laughing down; in another, Kasher mused whether we were "better off as animals." "Peter Pan syndrome," he told CityView's Michael Swanger, is one of the record's themes. The band also played The Ugly Organ's "A Gentleman Caller," for one. And they closed with my favorite song of the night, Domestica's cataclysmically throat-rending "The Casualty," which was the favorite of other people I talked to, too.
See you next holiday season?