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Cursive + The Blood Brothers + Eastern Youth

Christine Klunk
Cursive + The Blood Brothers + Eastern Youth

Cursive + The Blood Brothers + Eastern Youth

City: Buffalo, New York
Venue: Nietzsche's
Date: 2003-09-16

Eastern Youth

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Omaha, Nebraska, is everywhere these days. Well, Omaha is still in Nebraska, but the bands coming out of Omaha have traveled worldwide, spreading their new sound as well as the news that the hottest indie music scene of the moment springs from a landlocked, flat, farming state. It's pretty remarkable, really. Saddle Creek Records has produced Bright Eyes, Cursive, the Faint, and the Good Life, among many others. Most of these kids have all known each other since grade school, and yet they've evolved into completely unique musicians with their own sound. Despite this evolution, the bands and the people in them have remained as close knit and exclusive as ever. They frequently tour together unofficially, random members of bands showing up onstage to accompany the featured band. Tonight, though, Cursive -- Saddle Creek's hardcore component -- are on their own, miles and miles from home in the fine city of Buffalo, New York. They've got two bands with them: the Blood Brothers and Eastern Youth. Sadly, no miscellaneous Saddle Creekers showed up; however, the combination of these three bands provided enough emotional intensity and aggression for anyone. Japan's Eastern Youth started the evening with a set of such beautiful potency that the quick performance left the packed bar breathless. No one needed to know Japanese to comprehend the urgency of the intricate feelings emoted by singer Hisashi Yoshino. It was all there in the way he squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth. His delicate hand gestures, touching his face and chest, and pointing at the audience all conveyed the complexity of what he sang. Regardless of language, we were all moved by the band's take on punk and emocore. And when Yoshino stumbled through an apology for his malfunctioning guitar, the entire crowd about melted with empathy for this man who bared his soul in a tongue no one knew. Equally loved, but for different reasons, were the Blood Brothers, whose outrageously raucous blend of synth-rock and unintelligible screaming drew strong reactions from the crowd. Those down in front made use of the small space, forming a lively pit that drew praise from the band. Those up on the raised platforms to the side nodded their heads and tried to appreciate what melodies could be discerned through the eardrum-bursting noise. This quintet, composed of two singers, a guitar player, a keyboard/bassist, and drummer, looked like they belonged in Calvin Klein ads and sounded like teenagers having a 45-minute sonic tantrum. Vocalist Jordan Blilie pranced and jolted himself around stage like a young Mick Jagger, while backup singer/screamer Johnny Whitney, hovered by drummer Mark Gajadhar, staying hidden and in Blilie's shadow the majority of the time. Gajadhar's rhythms kept the band on track while he remained somewhat aloof from the rest of the group's antics. By the time the set ended, everyone's eardrums needed a break from the spastic abuse they'd just suffered. Quite the experience if you like a little pain with your pleasure. As soon as Cursive wandered onstage to set up their instruments (yes, every band set up and took down their gear; it was refreshing), we all knew whom everyone had come to see. Just watching singer Tim Kasher put together his keyboard and throw his guitar strap over his head elicited shouts and cries of encouragement from the crowd. Opening with "Sierra", the second-to-last track on their latest release The Ugly Organ, the packed bar went into Cursive Mode -- that zone in which everyone knows every single word to every song, and sings/screams along with the band's tense and melody-infused hardcore, led by Kasher and guitarist/vocalist Ted Stevens. Matt Maginn's bass lines shook the entire venue, causing chairs and bones to vibrate in sync with the rhythms he drew out of his instrument. Their second song and one of their strongest, "The Martyr", struck a chord with everyone, hooking our brains and bodies right from the jangly opening riff. Kasher wove a tragic tale of a romance's end, referring to the main character as "a lonely messiah, now he drinks with the lepers." The climax hit with a riotous blending of guitar, bass, drums, and cello, Kasher shouting, "So write some sad song about me / Screamin' your agonies / Playing the Saint / The Martyr." Popping in The Ugly Organ or the 2000 release Cursive's Domestica certainly pleases the ears, but to really get the music, Tim Kasher should be standing in front of you with all of his boyish charms being completely contradicted by his outrageous voice. An instrument that's rough and broken, full but ragged, his voice does not match his appearance or stage presence. Generally staying behind his keyboard and sometimes out of sight behind drummer Clint Schnase, Kasher's emotions come out in his voice and a few potent facial expressions. Cellist Gretta Cohn, having just joined the group for their latest release, sat front and center on her little folding chair, the picture of innocence -- until she started playing. Her face remaining almost expressionless, she played her cello like it was a lover. Her hips moved against the chair in time with the music so the act of playing was a sensual experience for everyone, most of all her. I got jealous of the cello. Cursive's set ran unexpectedly long, a gift to all present. Featuring almost all of The Ugly Organ, the band was at their best during the album's opening tracks, "Art Is Hard" and "Red Handed Slight of Hand". The buildup of staccato dissonance and grating ambience never failed to lead to a moment of climactic, melodic perfection. Never was this more evident than on their last song, "A Gentleman Caller". The verses verging on painful, Kasher raged, "You bad girl, does it feel good? / Being bad / It gets worse". But in the next second, all the noise dropped out, leaving only Cohn's cello and the reassurance, "Whatever you need to make you feel like you've been behind the wheel / The sunrise is just over that hill / The worst is over". I believed him. So did everyone else. But don't take my word for it; get thee to a Cursive show.

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