Cargo’s small, brick-walled back-room provided the ideal setting for Cursive’s angry style of introspective indie rock. The lead singer, Nebraska-born Tim Kasher, is very much the heart and soul of the band. With his tangled mat of shoulder-length hair and scraggly beard, he looked like he’d just emerged from a reclusive two months brooding in his bedroom to scream his angst at the world. In fact, his band have been touring non-stop for the past month, playing gigs across Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and Ireland since the start of May. Considering their recent globe-trotting, the amount of energy they brought to Cargo on 2nd June 2012, was impressive.
Tim Kasher makes an odd hero for the crowd of mostly late-teens who swarmed to see him in Shoreditch. He has an intense stage presence as he hurls out pained, rolling ballads and jagged punkier rock songs. With his finger wagging and eyes screwed into a sardonic expression, he pointed and leered at the captivated crowd like a drink-soused, embittered uncle imparting his hard-won wisdom.
Cursive opened the gig with This House Alive, which is also the first track on Cursive’s latest album, I Am Gemini. A concept record that brings the eponymous mythical twins to a particularly dark conclusion, This House Alive brews the album’s ominous tension, and it immediately set the dark, simmering tone of this gig.
Following it, Cursive took the crowd through a whirlwind tour of their best-loved albums, playing The Lament of Pretty Baby from 2000 breakthrough album Domestica, A Gentleman Caller from follow-up The Ugly Organ and Big Bang from their critically-acclaimed 2006 album Happy Hollow. Each raised a huge cheer and their fans immediately tuned into the tone of each particular song, despite them being fragments from the continuous narratives formed by each Cursive album.
The gig built to a crescendo fuelled by two furiously doubt-filled tracks. In Sink to the Beat, Kasher shouts the chorus then unleashes a volley of rhythmic screams. The crowd joined in with every howl. This was followed by From the Hips, which begins with Kasher confessing: “I’m at my worst when I’m at my best.” The song’s dark energy builds to him spitting: “we were better off as animals,” before the rhythm breaks down into a maelstrom of feral drumming. Kasher roars over the top of a violent guitar solo, then strides around the stage like a crazed chimpanzee driven mad by enclosure. These two songs seized hold of the crowd and a sizeable section broke away to mosh wildly through the freak-out instrumental sections, slowing only to shout along with Kasher’s lyrics.
The band returned for two encores, the first to play the stomping, popular 2003 single Art is Hard. A second attempt to leave failed as the crowd’s buzzing enthusiasm tempted Cursive back onto stage for an unplanned finale. This time, the keyboardist brought his trumpet and they finally closed the gig with an old favourite, Dorothy at Forty, from Happy Hollow. The jazzy trumpet shook the whole crowd into movement, and the band finally stumbled off stage dripping with sweat and to raucous applause.