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Cursive / Darkest Hour / Decahedron: live in Washington, DClive in Washington, DC (2004)
Saddle Creek Records
Reviewer Rating: 3.5
You know, it's sad. We live in America, where voting is a right, and kids are more concerned with who makes it to the next round of American Idol than who gets elected as President...
And with that, Mike Park, the man behind the successful Plea for Peace tour, kicked things off with his annual solo acoustic yet. Before this show, I knew who Park was, but had never been exposed to his music. While I can honestly say I wasn't missing much, I have an insane amount of respect for the guy, simply for everything he does for the scene, and getting kids to vote. The girl I attended the show with described Park as "the Asian John Mayer." While that might be the worst comparison I've ever heard, I let it slide, and focused on Mike's opening set, which lasted about half an hour. Things didn't really pick up, however, until his last two songs, "Blue Marble" and "Don't sit next to me (just cause I'm Asian)." Park's unintentional sense of humor, and great message forced me to enjoy his set. The laughter and buzz of kids around me relayed the message that everybody else felt the same way.
A short break followed, which allowed me to explore the 930 Club a bit. First thing I noticed is that kids are treated a lot better in DC than back in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Unlike AlleyKatz, free water is distributed to those scenesters who occupy the pit, and a nice range of food is offered. But the biggest difference between 930 and any Richmond club: they're on time. They let kids in the doors as advertised, and the bands began on time. AlleyKatz, take note. Please.
Now, back to the action.
Or lack thereof.
Being a Richmond native, I was pretty bummed upon finding out that Denali would not only be absent from this year's Plea for Peace, but they had broken up as well. But instead of getting a solid replacement, we got....Decahedron. Now, I've seen a lot of bad bands in my day. And honestly, I didn't think anybody could top the awful tendencies of "Year of the Rabbit" who opened for Thursday last fall. But congrats Decahedron, you guys ripped the award from their fingertips. I'm not even sure where to begin for these guys. Every song sounded the same, there was no beats, melodies, or hooks. It was just noise. Plain and simple. And the lead singer only made it worse, trying to shove his 'be punk and vote against Bush' views down our throat any chance he got. But the audience wouldn't be fooled by his antics, as half the crowd headed to the merch table/bathrooms/outside/upstairs during their set. Even the band's "grand finale," which included a planned leap into the crowd, was a bomb. Where in God's name is Denali when you need them?
Hometown metal heroes Darkest Hour were up next, and being a rather skinny kid, I headed upstairs to the 2nd level, for a great view of not only the entire stage, but the floor as well. And since metal isn't really my thing, that's what I ended up paying the most attention to: the floor. Since the floor at 930 is about 10 times larger than anything in Richmond, I'd never seen a dance pit so large as the one that formed as soon as Darkest Hour's first riff hit our ears. At least 30 or 40 kids were dancing, thrashing, kicking, and punching at the same time; some of those kicks and punches missed other pit participants by only inches. Needless to say, I was amazed. Not that I'd never seen a dance pit before. I'd just never seen a Washington DC pit before.
Oh, right. The music.
Like I said, I'm not into metal. So Darkest Hour really wasn't my thing, but I will say that they kept me entertained with their on-stage presence. They really do put on a great live show. I couldn't catch any song titles, but they did play quite a few "old songs," which sounded similar to the "new ones," but I digress. Darkest Hour's performance was solid, whether you're into metal, or not.
As soon as DH exited the stage, kids pushed forward, and the 2nd level evened out, as most kids headed downstairs for the headliner, Cursive. And just as the clock struck 11, we were greeted by Tim Kasher and company, who would proceed to flip the nation's capital upside down for the next hour and a half.
This was my 2nd time seeing Cursive live. They wow'ed me the first time, and they did the same during the 2nd go-round. Anybody you talk to will tell you that Cursive puts on one of the best live shows in the scene, whether you're a fan or not. Tim Kasher's voice is simply mesmerizing, and every note is hit perfectly. The band doesn't sound exactly like they do on their records, but add more of a special touch, making for a great performance, without overdoing it.
During the first few minutes of the set, a few Darkest Hour fans were heckling Cursive up front. Cellist Gretta Cohn took matters into her own hands, getting up in the kids face and screaming at them, before security escorted them away. Seeing that look of death in Gretta's eyes was one of the scariest things I've seen since my eyes first caught glimpse of the Hanson brothers. After the dramatic episode, Kasher went on a great tangent, pointing out the diversity of shows, and adding that "I'm sure Cursive fans thought Darkest Hour was useless noise. And I'm sure Darkest Hour fans think Cursive kids are pansies." So true . Honestly kids, can't we just all get along?
Cursive promised to play older material on this tour, and they were true to their word. Their set included at least one song from every one of their releases, which kept the 930 club enthralled from start to finish. Included in the set was Fairy Tales Tell Tales, Gentlemen Caller, The Recluse, and two new songs that kicked major ass. Towards the end of the set, Tim invited a fan up on stage to sing "The Martyr," which turned out to be an awesome experience, just watching the kid rock out with Cursive on stage. After a few more, including "Tall tales, Telltales," the quintet exited the stage, leaving the audience, as always, begging for more.
After a short break, Cursive returned for an encore, which included an incredibly original cover of Kelis' "Milkshake," which most fans didn't even recognize until the chorus. Hearing Tim Kasher sing about how his milkshake is better than yours, with a cello in the background was worth the ticket price alone. Cursive followed up by ripping through a few more songs, including Sierra and their best known song, Art is Hard, both of which sounded incredible live.
Cursive wrapped things up with "Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand," the 2nd track off the epic Ugly Organ. Somehow, closing with a song that includes "and now we proudly present, songs perverse and songs of lament, a couple hymns of confession, songs that recognize our sick obsessions, sing along, I'm on the ugly organ," seemed oddly appropriate. Because for the past hour and a half, 1200 kids had been riding high on the Ugly Organ, and weren't ready to quit just yet. And maybe that's because the ride was filled with attractions that were crammed with energy and emotion, that have become trademark for any Cursive show.
If you've never seen this band live, I'm not sure what to tell you. Love them or hate them, Cursive's live show will rape you. Or at least Gretta will.
Overall, I wasn't into the 2 middle bands, but Mike Park was decent, and Cursive surpassed any expectations. The absence of Denali was unfortunate, and I believe any number of political-driven bands, such as Strike Anywhere or Thursday, could have been added to the bill, or at least replaced Denali, to make the hours before Cursive a little more bearable.
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