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Above, Murder City Devil's Spencer Moody at the Sokol 11/9/00.


At the Drive-In, Murder City Devils, Cursive

The Sokol Underground, Omaha
Nov. 9, 2000

They called it a sell-out, and judging by the kids crushed into the entranceway of the Sokol Underground, waiting (trying) to get in, you'd think that it was SRO inside the cavernous confines. But you'd be wrong. In fact, there was plenty of room to maneuver.

Apparently even before opening band Cursive took the stage the Underground had reached its pre-described capacity of around 350, but you couldn't tell by glancing at the empty bar.

Regardless, as the night went on, it became more congested on the floor. By 10:30, Cursive was already done and the Murder City Devils were on stage, halfway through their set. Cursive bassist/vocalist Matt Maginn, still sweaty after leaving the stage and now manning the merch table, said early sellouts and early shows had been the norm on the tour. In fact, Cursive had been hitting the stage as early as 6 p.m. some nights, more proof of the buzz-wave ATDI has been riding since their latest CD, Relationship of Command, broke through the indie rock world.

The night's show was the last time Cursive will cross an Omaha stage until the end of November when they're slated to play one last show before taking some time off, presumably to let lead vocalist/songwriter Tim Kasher go out on the road in December with his other project, The Good Life. (FYI, Maginn says Cursive has already written a handful of songs for their next CD and plans a 2- to 3-week East Coast tour with a "more hardcore band" to try to branch out to a different audience).

Maginn pointed out a first for the band -- a heckler in the form of a drunken woman who continued to flip the bird and comment throughout their set. "It started to distract us," Maginn said, grinning like a proud father. Finally, Kasher confronted the drunk and offered her the microphone to get whatever it was off her chest. Her comments were predictable, telling the band that they suck and to f*** off. The crowd booed.

It didn't end there, as the woman continued her tirade throughout Murder City Devils' fiery set. This is old-school punk, loud and aggressive by way of The Stooges, with geek vocalist Spencer Moody doing his best Iggy impersonation, microphone in mouth, jumping around a stage that was lit ominously by candles lined up along the top of the amps. Energy was high, resulting in the first time I've seen an attempt at moshing at the Underground in a long, long time.

No heckler was gonna mar At the Drive-In's set, however. Before the band began their set at around 11:15, lead vocalist Cedric Bixler, trademark Afro at attention, made a few announcements:

"Keep the lights up so I can see the a**holes beating each other up," he said over the microphone, and sure enough, the Sokol's ugly blue-white fluorescent ceiling units stayed ablaze throughout the set, giving the place an eerie auto garage feel. "Point out the person who's being an a**hole," Bixler continued. A bunch of hands rose over the wave of sweaty heads and pointed at one person, unseen from my vantage point. "You! You've been an a**hole all night. You're ruining it for everyone. You're out of here. Escort her out. Don't be rude, she's had too much to drink, but if she can't control herself she's going to have to leave."

Sure enough, a couple people made their way through the crowd to a round of applause. Then the place exploded. The El Paso-based 5-piece has earned a reputation for putting on high-octane, over-the-top shows that feature their own brand of punk that's composed of equal parts Jane's Addiction, Chavez, Fugazi and their own bottled up anger. Bixler looks like a speed-freak contortionist -- spinning, gyrating, jerky, quirky, strange -- hugging the metal pole that's plopped in the middle of the Sokol stage, breaking to the edge and signaling with weird hand gestures (at one time, appearing to talk to a makeshift hand puppet minus the sock). The whole time, his afro, along with guitarist Omar Rodriguez's, took center stage. The crowd -- crushed to the front and standing on tables and chairs along the walls -- ate it up.

Fingers began pointing again after about the third song. "Where at? Right there! You!" Bixler said, pointing from the stage. "See, no one wants you to dance like that. That's not cool. Either you cool it or you leave."

Bixler's call outs, along with the lights being up during the set, distracted from the night -- bottom line: Who really wants to be seen self-consciously bouncing to the music while being sized up for a possible tirade by the lead singer? After only 45 minutes, the set came to a close at midnight. Bixler complained that there apparently wasn't another microphone available on stage, and cut his set short. But in fact, there wasn't much more ATDI could do. After about the fourth or fifth song, their msuic began to blend together.

Maginn was psyched that Cursive was scheduled to play the next two ATDI/MCDs dates. Little did he know that the Omaha show would be the band's last on this tour. Following the gig, ATDI was involved in an car accident outside of Sterling, Colo., that totaled their van and left a couple members broken and bruised. Both the Denver and Salt Lake City gigs, the last to feature Cursive as openers, were canceled.

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Published in The Omaha Weekly November 15, 2000. Copyright 2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.