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March 15, 2003
Sokol Underground


Last night, the place to be was upstairs at Sokol Auditorium for Cursive -- the band's first headlining gig in the big room. I'm a terrible judge of crowd size, but it seemed as packed as any big show I've seen up there, including Wilco and The Faint. But it wasn't a sell-out. One guy estimated 850, but it sure seemed like more, especially when you felt the swelteringly heat coming off the main floor (seems like it's always hot at Sokol Auditorium shows).

I missed Small Brown Bike, and Sorry About Dresden cancelled due to mechanical troubles. I arrived just in time to seen the last Desaparecidos song, a real scorcher featuring Oberst jumping off Baum's drum kit. My impression: Conor needs a haircut.

Then came Cursive. If Kasher had worn a beanie and short pants on stage he would have looked like that guy from AC/DC, with his short-sleeved white shirt and neck tie. If you're a Cursive fan, you would have dug the set. Kasher was in prime voice, and everything else was good and loud. People were crammed up either side of the stage on the wing steps, while you could see a crowd hanging backstage on either side. Rumor has it that someone from The New York Times was there last night, doing a piece on "the Omaha scene." That would make four nationals in town over the last few weeks, including SPIN, Blender and Fader. According to my photographer friend, all are doing stories on "the Omaha scene," a story that was heavily covered six months ago by everyone from Time to Rolling Stone to obscure New York magazines. Here I thought the spotlight was beginning to wane on Omaha, and along comes the next wave of hype.

Anyway… the band played a variety of songs from all their CDs (again, I didn't get the set list). For me, the most noticeable element was Gretta Cohn's cello. As I mentioned in the feature story, Gretta's cello for the first time stands out on their new CD. Every other time I've seen them live, I couldn't even hear the cello amongst the fog of bass/drum/guitar. Tonight, however, it felt like a warm blanket on even the most violent numbers, completely transforming their sound, adding a bottom and depth that underscores the seriousness of the proceedings.

The most interesting stage patter came before the last song, when Kasher said, in essence, that they've been playing for years, and Omaha has never been the band's favorite city to play, but he'd like it to be.

For some reason, it doesn't surprise me that Cursive has never had the strongest following in Omaha amongst the Saddle Creek bands (The Faint holds that distinction, even over Bright Eyes). At its very core, Cursive's music is abrasive and unforgiving. It doesn't lend itself to nice melodies or yell-out choruses (though the crowd did give it up during "The Martyr"). As a result, they don't attract the fans that are looking for easy pop, dance beats or good-time rock and roll. Cursive demands an investment from their listeners, and even then, a lot of people still don't get it. But those who do are rabid, die-hard fans -- the sort of fans that Cursive has enjoyed more in other cities. I don't know if that'll ever change, and I doubt the band cares all that much.

I got in one song from the encore, then split, hearing the next song blare from Sokol's open side doors, bringing in a much-need breeze, as I made my way back three or four blocks to my jeep.


back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes)   Posted March 15, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.








Here I thought the spotlight was beginning to wane on Omaha, and along comes the next wave of hype.