Pullman, Wash. is a relatively small college town, home to Washington State University and not much else. Cursive is a relatively large indie rock band from Omaha, Neb., who I was incredibly surprised to learn were playing the Pullman on a Thursday night. They were on the verge of releasing their seventh album, I Am Gemini, and the crowd was in for a treat. I had seen the band a few times before, but this was my first time seeing them as headliners, and it was by far the smallest venue I had ever seen them in, so I was pretty visibly excited.
Pullman’s premier concert venue is the Belltower, formerly a church, now host to the occasional rock show. The first thing you’ll notice upon entering, other than the stained glass windows, is the velvet rope right down the middle, separating the 21+ crowd from the all-agers. I still can’t decide if this system is genius, or mildly offensive, but it does make for some interesting people watching, and showed a clear divide in the concert-going habits of the couple hundred music fans in attendance, but more on that later.
Opening the show was Boise, Idaho’s Junior Rocket Scientist. Their spacey brand of indie rock showed a pretty strong reverence for the evening’s headliner, but also owed a great debt to Minus the Bear’s dancier moments. Technical difficulties plagued their set, but they didn’t let it slow them down too much, and used the opportunity to talk about Boise’s imminent Treefort Music Fest.
As soon as direct support act Ume took the stage, things got really loud, really fast. Their fiery brand of female-fronted guitar rock with plenty of Dinosaur Jr. influence reminded me immediately of Screaming Females, but they were by no means copycats. Frontwoman Lauren Larson knew exactly how to command a stage, with her constant headbanging, flowing blonde hair and feedback-heavy guitar riffage bringing to mind the late Kurt Cobain. The Austin, Texas power trio won over a good portion of the audience during their 45-minute set.
And then came Cursive. While I Am Gemini hadn’t quite yet seen its official release date, it had been streaming online for the better part of two weeks, so I wasn’t entirely surprised that the album got a lot of love in the setlist. They opened with that record’s “This House Alive,” to give the audience a feel for new material, before the following one-two-punch of “Big Bang” and “A Gentleman Caller” got the crowd moving and singing. The audience responded quite well to the Gemini tracks, most notably the hard rocking “Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton” and dancy first single “The Sun and Moon.”
Songs from The Ugly Organ are what really got the crowd moving, however. A mid-set rendition of “Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand” saw a circle pit that was probably more aggressive than the music called for take over the floor. A slowed down version of “The Recluse” saw one of the strongest sing-alongs of the evening.
It was during these older songs that the dividing line between the crowds became obvious. On the completely packed 21+ side there was moshing, attempted stage dives, tons of sing-alongs and general good times. On the all-ages side there were perhaps 50 or so teenagers, standing in place and bobbing their heads. It could perhaps be that Cursive’s music skews towards an older, drunker crowd, but it was interesting to see the how differently the two sides behaved.
The music was near nonstop. The band only took a short break about halfway through their set for frontman Tim Kasher to catch his breath, and tell a few stories, including one about how they tried to open for Slayer in Spokane a few years prior.
Cursive closed their regular set with “Dorothy at 40,” before coming back for an encore of “Art Is Hard” (which found Kasher climbing on the tables of the venue), “Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me,” “From The Hips” and Gemini closer “Eulogy For No Name.” It was a great night of live music; my only complaint would be the lack of personal favorite “Driftwood: a Fairy Tale” in the setlist, but it’s not like I haven’t seen them do it before. If Cursive is coming to your area, you would be well advised to go see them, and pick up a copy of I Am Gemini while you’re there.