Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

The rock and roll weekend


It’s not often that two really great shows happen in St. Louis on consecutive nights. It also seems to be the case that a great show is always scheduled on the same night as WILD, and, for the most part, the Washington University crowd chooses booze in the quad over rock music downtown. The hangover from WILD probably leaked over to Saturday night as well, leaving college music fans out of the loop during what could shape up to be the best rock and roll weekend of the year.

Mississippi Nights played host to two bands who currently rank among indie rock’s most prominent. Cursive and the Blood Brothers played to a club that was packed to the gills in the all-ages section, but sparsely populated up by the bar. After opener Eastern Youth-a Japanese punk band-warmed the crowd up with an energetic and enthusiastic set, the Blood Brothers moved straight from soundcheck into their set, opening with the blistering “Fucking’s Greatest Hits” tearing through a dozen or so spazz-core blasts, whetting the crowd’s appetite for Cursive.

They didn’t have to wait long, with Cursive taking the stage before their scheduled time, 9:30 p.m. Building up on a darkened stage with each member coming on and adding a gently played instrument to the mix, they segued nicely from the noodling into the rousing “Sierra,” from their latest release, “The Ugly Organ.” As vocalist-guitarist Tim Kasher let go of his instrument to grab the microphone and emote the chorus, the audience drowned him out in a pure display of the music’s power.

Cursive’s set was a mix of beauty-on the cello-driven “The Recluse”-hard emotional rock-“The Martyr” from the 2000 album “Domestica”-pure clutter and noise-“A Gentleman Caller”-and everything in between. Guitars interplayed with cello and occasionally organ, as in”Some Red-Handed Sleight of Hand,” to create an innovative blend of progressive punk, helped by classical motifs.

With the set-closer “Art is Hard,” in which Kasher makes fun of the indie-rock mentality toward self-pity, Cursive overcame the emotional weight and pretension of their music with an energetic singalong. Mixing power and pop, Cursive was a true crowd pleaser.

The following night’s show at Pop’s was a different beast altogether. Whereas Cursive and the Blood Brothers play to small but devoted followings, AFI (A Fire Inside) has jumped from the punk underground headfirst into the mainstream. Pop’s was packed to the gills with goth kids sporting eyeliner, punks with spiky hair, metalheads in Pantera t-shirts, and the occasional skater kid, with the audience ranging in age from very young to very old. After opening sets from Bleeding Through (bad) and Hot Water Music (pretty good), AFI took the stage like the rock stars they have become.

As the tattooing electronic drumbeat of “Miseria Cantare: the Beginning” reverberated through the jam-packed club, the crowd pumped fists in the air and shouted the song’s refrain: “Love your hate! Your faith lost! You are now one of us!” Dry ice fog wisped over the stage, red and purple lights giving the band an eerie glow as they emerged. Frontman Davey Havok, dressed and made up like a mix of Mick Jagger and Marilyn Manson, goaded the crowd to sing along with him, casually holding out the microphone to the swelling pit at the front of the stage.

The intro led directly into “The Lost Souls” from their 2000 album “The Art of Drowning.” Guitarist Jade Puget and bassist Hunter flailed their instruments around, doing splits and jumpkicks off of amplifiers, monitors, and the drum riser. Throughout the hour-long set, the energy did not abate, with the band executing tons of moves from the rock and roll handbook in enthusiastic aplomb. Fans bounced up and down as the band played songs both new-MTV2 Viewer’s Choice Award winner “Girl’s Not Grey”-and old-fan-favorite and set-closer “Totalimmortal.”

The band members were unafraid to act the rock star roles, especially Puget-executing a hyperspeed, finger-tapping guitar solo poised delicately on the lip of the stage during “Dancing Through Sunday”-and Havok-twirling the microphone, punching and kicking the air, and even diving in a full somersault into the crowd during “The Leaving Song Pt. II” without missing a single line of the song.

The fans returned the band’s enthusiasm, often drowning out the PA during the choruses of the songs while acting as a backing choir. Havok showed his trust in the fans and the connection was made between speaker and audience when, during the encore, he stepped out into the middle of the mosh pit, standing on the hands of the fans, to sing the final verses.

Though very different in style, Friday night’s show and Saturday night’s performance show that the spirit of rock and roll is still alive. Everybody’s working for the weekend.

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