- Elisa Marie Pena
It's no surprise that the veteran (formed in 1995) indie-rock/emo-punk act, known for its rather maniacal theatrical bent, conceptual albums, seething and searing performances, and lyrical evisceration of fucking everything, is popular here. After all, we as a city totally have a thing for the heart-on-sleeve, bile-plus-booze, scream-along sad-sack vibe.
And, since "literally last century" as Kasher noted at some point in the show, few bands have captured that vibe as consistently, as thoughtfully, or as well as Cursive. These folks are consummate professionals, several of whom have been in other indie-successful bands and were a part of the spiritual nexus that helped spark the formation, in 1993, of the widely influential Omaha label Saddle Creek Records.
For this show, the four-piece was accompanied by trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Patrick Newbury and, extra exciting for fans of 2003's The Ugly Organ (the band's most successful/beloved album), cellist Megan Seibe. Cursive's most recent album, 2018's Vitriola, which for my money is its best since 2006's Happy Hollow, marks the first time the band has worked with a cellist since The Ugly Organ.
By the time the bashing opening sounds of the show's second song, Happy Hollow standout "Big Bang," rang out, the crowd was growing as fevered as any of Kasher's signature yelps. The urgent interplay between the trumpet and guitar on this song reminded me how immediate, how menacing (in a sexy kind of way), how devastatingly dystopian and hauntingly carnivalesque the best Cursive songs can be.
Heading further back in the catalog, to 2000's Domestica, the band then played a triumphant rendition of "The Martyr" before knocking out a few new songs in "It's Gonna Hurt" (a too appropriate song for our FML times) and "Pick Up the Pieces."
At this point Kasher, whose on-stage charisma and roaring and smirking self-confidence (apparently plumbed from so many years roasting himself on record) have always been one of Cursive's draws, told the crown some requisite bullshit about how rad SA is and threw some shade Lubbock's way, saying there had been a shitty turnout the night before. Seriously, get it together "Hub City."
Next was a rowdy rendering of "A Gentleman Caller" from The Ugly Organ, and the first time folks really lost their shit. Siebe's cello on this one, as well as at a few other high points, sounded as ominous, as marauding, as punk, as haunted as any angular riff Kasher or Ted Stevens (the band's other guitarist) could muster.
The back end of the initial set was stacked with bangers, with only a few lulls (the same could be easily said for all but a couple Cursive albums). A pattern was clear though: songs from The Ugly Organ and prior drew the most intense audience reaction.
Through songs like "The Black Widow," "The Radiator Hums," "Sink to the Beat," and (especially!) "Art is Hard," the band delivered the damn goods and worked the crowd of (mostly) aging emo kids into a sad/mad/glad lather. It was a kind of therapeutic experience. And, I had to marvel at how consistent and well-preserved Kasher is. This dude was making me rage/cry to a concept album about divorce when I was 17 years old and he's still out here doing his thing, and well — crafting angry hymns to the heartland of the void, writing with emotional and intellectual depth about insecurity, ego, domestic drudgery, sex, death, love and loss.
The encore, a near-perfect encapsulation of all that Cursive does best, included two seemingly unlikely choices in "From the Hips" (via 2009's Mama, I'm Swollen) and "Dorothy at Forty" (from Happy Hollow). The songs, however, worked perfectly in terms of mood, energy, and concept. It was a reminder, as a room full of stiff necks thrashed just a little bit more, that the thing that has always kept us coming back to Cursive is the depth and venom in Kasher's vocal delivery and penetrating lyrical assaults.
Get our top picks for the best events in San Antonio every Thursday morning. Sign up for our Events Newsletter.