Tag Archives: Tim Kasher

LIVE: Primal Scream, The Cult at Crystal Ballroom / The Good Life at Doug Fir Lounge

By Hollister Dixon // Primal Scream and The Cult photos by Yousef Hatlani

Following the move to cease production of the podcasting arm of Faces on the Radio, I found myself just not going out to shows as much anymore. This is mostly a consequence of paying much less attention to the calendar, a part of my programming that vanished surprisingly fast. At least a couple nights a week, I would find myself looking at my Facebook notifications, and saying, “SHIT! That’s tonight!” about one show or another. To get back into the swing of things, I decided the best way was to throw myself into the deep end and double-book myself: I would see Scottish deities Primal Scream (inexplicably supporting England’s The Cult, rather than the other way around – but that’s neither here nor there) at the Crystal Ballroom, before crossing the Burnside to the Doug Fir where Tim Kasher’s Cursive offshoot The Good Life were making a triumphant return. In the process, I learned and realized a few things.

Primal Scream, The Cult – Crystal Ballroom


Primal Scream // Photo By Yousef Hatlani

This is an obvious statement, but if you’re the singer in a band that plays a lot of quasi-instrumental music, you’re going to have to do a lot more to exercise the “stage presence” muscle. Stage presence is as much of a muscle as anything in performing, and if you’re in a band like Primal Scream, and you’re someone like Bobby Gillespie, you’re going to have to figure out what to do with your time while the rest of the band is going nuts. Primal Scream are a few year’s past their 30th anniversary as a band at this point, long enough that you’d be able to forgive Gillespie for not bothering to move around as much as he does. At this point, though, he’s got enough energy to make Mick Jagger watch his back: during longer, more instrumentally-driven songs, he bounds across the stage, posing at the edge for fans, preening like an unsung sex icon with his mic stand (note: Bobby Gillespie truly is an unsung sex icon). Joyfully, the rest of the band matched his energy step for step and turn for turn, putting on one of the single best Crystal Ballroom performances I’ve seen since the triumphant and transformative performance by fellow Creation Records stars Slowdive.

Partway through the band’s hour-long performance, Gillespie dropped a minor bomb nobody could quite believe: this was, in fact, the very first Primal Scream show in Portland. This was a source of joy, but also one of annoyance bordering on anger for the people I was with: despite the caliber of the talent onstage this evening, the Crystal Ballroom was – and I’m being generous here – roughly half full by the time the band had finished. It seemed that the band failed to notice this (or noticed and simply didn’t actually care), however, as they sailed on with enough passion and fire that I genuinely felt bad for the evening’s headliner. To be honest, I’m still a little confused as to why this bill wasn’t flipped – I feel like advertising a “first time in Portland!” performance by Primal Scream would have sold out the Ballroom months before the show actually went on.. but, again, that’s a minor trifle. I say this without a drop of hyperbole, but I feel blessed to have gotten the chance to see this band play, even if they only played for an hour.

The Cult // Photo By Yousef Hatlani

The Cult // Photo By Yousef Hatlani

The unfortunate part of my double-booking is that this was a very good opportunity for me to finally get what people enjoyed about The Cult. During a conversation with friend/former guest Shelley Bowers, I tried to figure out what I was missing about The Cult, and in the process realized that I was simply just a little too young to really, truly get the band. Having said that, the songs I did see The Cult perform were fantastic. Just like the aforementioned Bobby Gillespie, Cult frontman Ian Astbury knows how to get a crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, and just like Primal Scream, he’s used the last 30 years to really figure out how to be a terrific performer. Had I stuck out the performance, I feel as though I could have found myself converted. Next time!


The Good Life // Instagram Photo by Hollister Dixon

Unfortunately for Astbury, I have an unofficial standing order to see Tim Kasher perform whenever I get the opportunity. After a brisk trek across the Willamette, I got to see The Good Life‘s return from hibernation. It has been a jaw-dropping eight years since The Good Life released Help Wanted Nights, and their return with this year’s Everybody’s Coming Down came with a surprisingly nonexistent amount of fanfare. It could simply be because of Kasher’s status as an indie rock lifer – it isn’t as though he himself has been inactive, having released four records since Help Wanted Nights (two with Cursive, two under his own name) – but it was clear by the joy in the crowd that everyone in the room was overjoyed to be able to belt out those songs.

Kasher is at his best when he sings about emotional turmoil (“I’m at my best when I’m at my worst”, he aptly sang on “From the Hips“) and despite his kind and affable stage presence, The Good Life is just a less angular (and sometimes more angsty) version of Cursive. That’s not a knock at all; The Good Life have the benefit of being a more dynamic band, where Kasher is bolstered not only by the standout bass work of Stefanie Drootin (who also performed a stunning and tear-enducing rendition of Album of the Year cut “Inmates”), but by the workmanlike drumming of Roger Lewis, who was damn near impossible to look away from at times. It may simply be the result of working with Kasher (Cursive is, as it happens, a devastating live act), but band maintained a state of constant tightness throughout their hour onstage, even during an Everybody’s Coming Down cut that was prefaced with “Here’s a short one that we’re going to try really hard to not mess up!” and during the band’s more chaotic and expansive tracks (namely the title track from Album of the Year, a song which goes in approximately 20 directions during its five-minute span). Despite the somewhat short set (short by some metrics, I mean), seeing The Good Life perform was a wonderful reminder of why, exactly, I have that standing order to see Tim Kasher perform every chance I get: he’s one of indie rock’s best frontmen, no matter what band he’s playing with.

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LIVE: Cursive, Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR

By Hollister Dixon

The first Cursive record I obsessed over was not The Ugly Organ. It was actually Happy Hollow, the band’s misunderstood (and possibly underrated) fifth record, that pulled me in. A few days before my 16th birthday, my father and I took a trip down south and paid a visit to the Redwoods in North California, and – among other things – I brought with me Happy Hollow. I played that record to death, and somehow didn’t get to the point of my father throwing my iPod out the window during the trip. I know we must have listened to other things on that trip, but that’s the thing that sticks out more than almost anything. Everything comes back to The Ugly Organ, though: after my father went to bed one night, I wandered from our hotel room to the nearest grocery store and listened to that record for the very first time. I never quite got over either of those records, but I fell the hardest for Ugly Organ in the end. More than 10 years later, every inch of that record feels absolutely perfect, without a single ounce of unnecessary fluff or fat. It is, somehow, still probably the best album to ever come out of Saddle Creek Records.

More than 10 years later, Ugly Organ is still a record worth celebrating. Which is why, instead of touring behind new material, the band are out on the road promoting the recent reissue of the album (which I can tell you, after having a peek at the merch booth, looks gorgeous) – but, we’ll get to all of that in a moment or two.

I only caught three songs from Slow Bird, from Seattle, WA. I regret not catching more of the band’s set, because what I heard was incredibly tight. The trio’s music may not really be a breath of fresh air – they really aren’t treading any uncharted territory with their material – but they manage to make wonderfully atmospheric and surprisingly soulful indie rock, and it was a fantastic way to start off the evening. It’ll be very interesting to see how they develop over the next few years.

The night’s second band, Beach Slang, also fit into the category of “Can’t wait to see what happens next”. Make no mistake here: the band’s set was absolutely astounding. They’re a band that wear their influences on their sleeves in a major way, but it never verges into the territory of lifeless pastiche, but instead turns an obvious love of The Replacements and Big Star into something entirely fresh, and incredibly fun. The band are currently recording a new album, a follow-up to their superb four-track Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken, which I can’t recommend enough.

And then, there’s Cursive. I didn’t know, walking in, that the plan was to play The Ugly Organ, in it’s entirety, mixed in with a couple b-sides from the record, as well as songs from the rest of their career. It was a definite trip down memory lane, with almost no focus on the records that came after: a song each from Happy Hollow, Mama, I’m Swollen, and I Am Gemini. I got a chance to see Tim Kasher solo last year, but this was a whole different ballgame entirely. Dressed in a suit and tie, he commanded the stage in a way that few frontmen do, and somehow made the act of chewing gum while performing an act of immeasurable suaveness.

Surprisingly, Cursive do not seem sick of any of the songs from that era. They whipped in and out of stretches from the album with jarring intensity, and the crowd ate up every moment, most noticeably during “The Recluse” when the crowd chanted every word louder than Kasher himself – which is, if I’m honest, one of my favorite things about bands performing their classics. It’s an act of passion and love, which fit perfectly with the nature of the show. It’s somewhat rare these days to see a crowd that feels like they are completely with the band every step of the way, and it was a treat to be a part of that evening.

Aside from Ugly Organ tracks, they tossed in a small handful of equally old songs: two from Domestica (“The Casualty” and “The Martyr”, which left me wanting a similar show for that record) and the criminally underrated Burst & Bloom (“Sink to the Beat” and “This House Alive”), and though the latter two didn’t rile up the crowd like the rest, it was a pleasure to see them performed for an adoring crowd. They ended the set with “Sierra” and the squalls of “Staying Alive”, which perfectly capped off an already unbeatable set, and despite still wanting more (I’d have paid to see “Shallow Means, Deep Ends” or “Hum of the Radiator”), I got to leave completely satisfied, and impressively wiped out.

At the moment, Cursive are nearly three years removed from I Am Gemini, and though I was never a fan of that record, I feel like the intensity of this performance bodes well for the band’s future, even if it was the result of a deep dive into the band’s past. I’m not sure if I need to see the band again after this show, but if they can match that passion with the next one, I’ll still happily turn out to see them any chance I get.

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