Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Nate Jackson
06/30/2009 | OC Weekly | www.ocweekly.com | Live Show Preview
Last Night: Cursive, Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band and Box Elders at the Glass House.

Better Than: Spending one more night sulking about Michael Jackson

Download: Cursive's latest album, Mama I'm Swollen (released March 10, 2009 on Saddle Creek Records)

In the life of a mildly experienced music writer, Monday night concerts tend to fall into one of two categories. "A", you get to watch a band try to curb their disappointment as they emerge to an apathetic crowd of 50 in a room that holds 500 in an effort that proves ultimately frustrating for everyone involved. Or "B", you show up barely on time to find you are surrounded by legions of die hards who are hell bent on getting the most out of their favorite band, weekend be damned. Last night proved to be a sound victory for option "B" as I walked in half-way through a set by Box Elders, the first band opening for the emotionally tortured indie rock legends of Cursive.

But unlike the thrashing, epic moodiness bandied about by Tim Kasher and gang, Box Elders had a tendency toward the lighter side of life. Offering a no frills mixture of bass, guitar and a drummer/keyboardist (I must admit, that was a pretty neat trick), Box Elders entertained the crowd with a puree of punk, pop and surf rock vibes (a bit odd for a band from Omaha, Nebraska but maybe that was the point). Bassist/vocalist Clayton McIntyre and his bro, guitarist/vocalist Jeremiah McIntryre attacked each tune with doubled, sing songy vocals that offered a bit of force behind Dave Goldberg's heavy handed drumming on songs like "One Foot in Front of the Other". All-in-all, their vaguely second wave brand of pop punk induced plenty of sweat amongst their biggest P-Town fans which seemed to bop up and down in the center of the crowd. The majority of us were pretty content with just standing there.

The sweaty rock show vibes only increased after a short sound check (spliced with a few choice MJ tunes in between) by the Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band from Seattle. Sporting a riff rocking five piece, front man/guitarist Ben Verdoes orchestrated a 30 minute set of arrythmic patterns and prog-tinged passes at indie pop. The band included Verodes, his brother Marshall on drums (he's only 14 by the way!), guitarist/keybordist Matt Dammer, bassist Jared Price and percussionist/vocalist/eye candy Eggleston (Ben Verodes wife by the way!). The band had plenty of audience support by the middle of their set when they unleased a thunderous mixture of electric energy and hooky prog in the song "Albatross, Albatross, Albatross".

But the band didn't just rely on their sound to incite a little crowd participation. accompanied by Eggleston holding her auxillary floor tom over her shoulder, Price took aim at the crowd with a tennis balls as he bounced them off the drum and into the darkness. For the record, I think his aim needs to improve as I only heard a handul of screamers and deft ball-to-cranium connections, but it was still fun to watch. The highlight was definitely watching the cast of Cursive sneak up on them at the end of their last song and rock out behind them with drums and guitar. Kasher plays drums? Of course he does.

It was around 10p.m. when those who had opted for a pre-headliner cigarette stomped out their butts and returned to the show. It sounds like a minuscule detail but for whatever reason there seemed to be a lot of smokers at the show so maybe its worth mentioning (or maybe not). Either way, the smoke outside was soon replaced by the rising body heat inside as fans packed in and readied themselves for Cursive's arrival. By the time the stage lights produced Kasher, guitarist Ted Stevens, bassist Matt Maginn, drummer Cully Symington and multi instrumentalist Patrick Newberry, the Glass House had become a sea of faces, silhouettes and clapping hands. Appropriately, Kasher kicked things off "In the Now" with the lead track of their latest album, Mama I'm Swollen filled with antsy energy and Fugazi-esque screams as Kasher proclaimed "don't wanna live in the now, don't wanna know hat I know!" One thing he does know is how to orchestrate a great set with his band.

Performing a healthy cross section of favorites from older albums like Happy Hollow, The Ugly Organ, and Domestica, frenzied cheers rumbled before and after classics like "The Recluse"(which they played in a brilliant, slightly more relaxed time signature), "The Martyr" and "Art is Hard" and new jams like "From the Hips". The whole band was sweaty and on point the whole time, even in the face of a few early hiccups with Steven's gear which I'm sure most people didn't even notice, the true sign of a seasoned band. For some people, Newberry's work on trumpet, fugal horn and keys gave new life to the old tunes along with the thunderous timing of Symington behind the kit.

An encore brought even more praise as the band played out with more songs from Mama and ended with the epic crescendo of "Staying Alive" for a crowd that nearly lost its mind in admiration. Like I said, last night definitely fell into the "B" category.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Glad to see any band that can manage to rock as hard as they did in their 30s as they did in their 20s, possibly even harder. "Dorothy at Forty" was awesome last night.

Random Detail: I was told that Kasher saves his set lists from each city he plays and goes over them to make sure the band doesn't play the same set twice. So any of you who managed to snag a setlist can test this out next time they come to P-Town.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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