Cursive / Cymbals Eat Guitars / Conduits - Live in Cambridge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Cursive / Cymbals Eat Guitars / Conduits

Live in Cambridge (2012)

live show

Any time Cursive hits the road, it promises to be a pretty good time at worst. The band always seems to put together crowd-pleasing setlists that span just about its entire catalog; Tim Kasher is always jovial with the crowd and otherwise acting out his songs' characters with accusatory finger-pointing (on earlier records, it was usually just himself, really); and the band executes its songs with either a wild fury or groovy precision--sometimes both. Thankfully, this night was no different; it just had a new album of especially character-driven jams to mix in.

A band called Conduits kicked off the alliterative lineup. Usually I find myself indifferent about the first openers on "indie rock" tours, but they were not bad. Not bad at all. They reminded me quite a bit of Beach House (maybe somewhere between Devotion and Teen Dream), albeit less polished and a little more dissonant at times. And with more full-band stuff than BH's more minimal, electronic setup on older albums. The crowd seemed relatively into it, too; I saw plenty of sincere head-bobbing going on during the half-hour set.

I was definitely pumped to see Cymbals Eat Guitars, finding their two full-lengths pretty enjoyable efforts. Their throwback emotional indie rock with loose yelps and screams is a perfect fit for the slot before Cursive. They had the sort of energy that was reserved for the tunes themselves--they may not have moved around much, but the dynamic little twists in their songs are always fun to anticipate and witness. They managed to blast through nine of their relatively long songs in 41 minutes with mostly brief pauses between. But the highlight of their minimal crowd interaction was when frontman Joseph D'Agostino responded to an audience member's drunken shouting after "Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)": "What was that, weird psyched dude?"

Set list (9:19-10:00):

  1. And the Hazy Sea
  2. [?]
  3. Shore Points
  4. Plainclothes
  5. Indiana [?]
  6. Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)
  7. Definite Darkness
  8. Another Tunguska
  9. Keep Me Waiting

So, Cursive. There was some really haunting music on the PA as an intro to set an eerie aura, but that made sense given that the first song of the set was "This House Alive," which, of course, makes me think of Poltergeist. From there, it was almost non-stop, with the band plowing through another nine songs without stopping. The band sequenced the early portion quite well, with great transitions among the first three tracks--following the headbanging "Big Bang" with the raucous "A Gentleman Caller" was perfect. This opening trio also showed that while the band's members are dipping into their late 30s, they can still play with an impressive fire and energy.

The typical, expected observation would be that Kasher was a little bit intoxicated and a playfully animated frontman. But it also might just be him in what he'd consider his normal mode (sober or otherwise). While intermittent selections from the band's newest record, the conceptual I Am Gemini, helped establish a bit of an erratic storyline throughout the set, it didn't seem like they were trying to establish any sort of fourth wall: During the first real break in the set after "The Martyr," Kasher had no problem fist-bumping a fellow near the front. Later he would declare, "I want to titfuck everyone here...I'm sorry, that was crude. Breastfuck."

Speaking of such acts, "The Recluse" was especially slow and sensual. Tracks from The Ugly Organ are always an inviting highlight for me (as I'm sure they were for everyone else in the crowd, many of whom were excitedly slam-dancing near the front during the band's more thumping numbers like "Dorothy at Forty" and "Art Is Hard"), but it was a welcome change of pace to watch and listen to Cursive take creative liberties with the songs in its excellent back catalog. Hell, they basically orchestrated a jam-band bridge for "Art Is Hard." Granted, they brought the brass of Happy Hollow on stage to recreate those studio moments live, and that was also quite okay.

While song selection generously spanned the band's catalog dating back to 2000 (as you can see below), there were enough reminders that hey, Cursive has a new record out, and it's not bad. When they wrapped up the 85-minute set with Gemini closer "Eulogy for No Name," it provided a fresh, final hook that seemed to sedate us all.

Set list (10:23-11:27):
  1. This House Alive
  2. Big Bang
  3. A Gentleman Caller
  4. The Cat and Mouse
  5. Retreat!!
  6. A Red So Deep
  7. The Sun and Moon
  8. Driftwood: A Fairy Tale
  9. We're Going to Hell
  10. The Martyr
  11. Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton
  12. I Couldn't Love You
  13. The Recluse
  14. Wowowow
  15. From the Hips
    Encore (11:29-11:48):
  16. Dorothy at Forty
  17. Sink to the Beat
  18. Art Is Hard
  19. Eulogy for No Name