Typically, I don’t put any stock into Valentine’s Day, though I have had a few memorable dates on the day we arbitrarily celebrate love. They include: firing a gun for the first and only time at a range in L.A. on a double date; seeing my favorite band EELS play at a theater mentioned in one of their songs; and getting soup and roses delivered by a soon-to-be boyfriend. Generally, it’s just another day of capitalism. My plan for 2015, fresh out of my latest relationship, was to read books in a nest of blankets. Thankfully, none of that happened.
Living in a punk house with five dudes and three bands between them lends itself to many sleepless nights. However, there are the occasional all-night benders that I engage in and February 13 was one of those.
Over brunch and Bloody Mary’s the next morning, my roommate’s friend, Elan, asked me out to a movie. As we were driving to the theater, he handed me his iPod to play DJ. I scrolled through, saw an extensive Cursive collection, and asked if he knew they were playing Seattle that night. Movie plans were instantly cancelled as we set upon a quest to obtain tickets for the sold out show. CraigsList came through for us and we made plans to meet a guy named Patrick at the show who had a pair of unused tickets.
We pulled up in front of the venue and spotted a guy holding out two tickets. He walked up to the car, said he was Patrick, and sold them to us. The exchange was very cold. I think he said two words to us and I remember thinking, “That guy really doesn’t look like a Cursive fan.” Inside Neumo’s we got a call from the real Patrick. We’d been taken by a scalper.
Slow Bird, a female-fronted trio with synthy keyboard, opened the show. They were a great primer for the night, showcasing an indie dream pop style with full, robust vocals. Their guitar parts melded with the keys in a way that the singer’s voice stood out distinctly, while the drums were heavy and slow. It was difficult to pay attention to Slow Bird because of the group standing behind us. They were loudly discussing who had the best weed among them. Because of that, I can’t say for sure if I enjoyed the group, or just tolerated them as I did the folks behind me. But it turns out that Slow Bird are from Seattle, so I could get another chance to see them sooner than I thought.
To be completely honest, Beach Slang, was the entire reason I went to this show. I’d listened to more Beach Slang in the last three months than I had Cursive, in the last ten years. Beach Slang, a four-piece from Philadelphia kept popping up on “Best of 2014” lists I had read in December. Right away I could see why they were getting people’s attention.
I couldn’t help but smile as soon as they started playing. They dove straight into their fuzzed-out set, kicking out jams that reminded me of The Replacements and early Goo Goo Dolls. One song in and the front man/guitarist James Alex was winning over the hearts of every person in the room. He looked over the sold-out crowd—a sprinkling of minors wrapped around the balcony, and the mass of people averaging the age of thirty-five—and stood slightly aghast.
“This is so crazy to me. I’m used to being the kid that sits alone at lunch time and now there’s a sold-out show watching us,” he shared with the crowd.
After a wave of soft laughter from people who remembered what that was like, Alex looked over at guitarist Ruben Gallego and said, “You’re tuning? Come on, you’re making us look bad. The ‘Mats never played in tune.”
As the set carried on, I sang and danced along to the songs I recognized. They played so hard and with such stage presence that Alex couldn’t keep his hat on. Each time he put it back on, it lasted a mere seconds before flying across the stage again. A few songs in, they all stopped on queue after the first verse in order to promote their upcoming full length album. Who does that?
Alex exclaimed, “We got signed to Polyvinyl Records, can you believe it? We’re just a bunch of punks from Philly!” Not long after that I looked up to catch Alex holding his guitar up to his face and sliding his tongue down the fret board.
Their song “Dirty Cigarettes” started playing towards the middle of the set. It was like an old friend had come to visit. I’ve only been exposed to Beach Slang for a short time, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Musically and lyrically this band can emit a gamut of emotions, ranging from remorse to empowerment, loneliness to uplifting. It’s as if they’re telling you, “It’s okay. We all have failures. But it’s because of them that we can accomplish anything.” By the end of the set I was so ecstatically in love with this band. They left us with “Happy Valentine’s day! Make love tonight and enjoy the rest of your fucking life!”
I bee-lined it to the merch booth and snatched up both of their EPs, telling the guy selling it to let Beach Slang know they made a huge fan out of me that night. When I turned around, I realized we were separated from the stage by only a shallow barrier. It was a perfect place to watch the headliner! A group of people next to us asked if I was hanging out, hoping to meet Beach Slang. I replied, “Not intentionally, but if I do, I’m going to hug them. This just seems to be the best spot to watch a sold-out set.”
Closing out the night was the band everyone waited for: Cursive. Playing material primarily from their 2003 album, The Ugly Organ, they were complete with a rocking cellist. I’m pretty sure that besides high school band, that was the first time I’d seen someone play cello on stage. The previous bands were a beautiful marriage of gritty melodies and emotions, which was awfully fitting for the holiday. Once Cursive finally came on, the attitude totally shifted.
Just about everyone in the crowd became twelve years younger and filled with nostalgic memories. Each song they played was met with cheers within a note or two. These fans really recognized their catalog. Guitarist and vocalist—Tim Kasher—periodically threw out red roses and chocolates for the crowd who sang along to every word. Watching from the side stage allowed me to see the pure elation and happiness on each smiling, shouting face. Although I wouldn’t call myself a Cursive fan, I can relate to the rad fucking time everyone in there was having and vicariously live through it. You could see it radiating throughout each of Cursive’s members, too. They were just as stoked to be back on stage as the audience was watching them.
Many people had a perfect night. I may be wrong, but I remember “A Gentleman Caller,” being the last song played by Cursive before ending with an encore with a looping “Staying Alive.” The lyrics “The worst is over” on repeat provided a beautiful melody. Cursive played hard, dirty, and beautiful and I walked out sort of kicking myself for not paying attention to them earlier. But hey, it’s okay, because Beach Slang was the best thing ever!
Kayla Greet is from Seattle, WA and has been a Razorcake contributor for the last year. She is a fanatic pinball player, knitter, and writer for Skill Shot—Seattle’s pinball zine. Recently she decided to start a Tumblr about staying creatively motivated as well as to share new projects. You can find it at http://www.not-good-enough-2015.tumblr.com/