Review: Tim Kasher, Laura Stevenson offer career-spanning indie-rock sets at Crowbar in Tampa
It’s time to party like it’s the early 2000s this week in Tampa, it seems.
First Geoff Rickly came to town Tuesday, playing with his current band United Nations and an acoustic set of Thursday songs. Then Tim Kasher of Saddle Creek bands Cursive and The Good Life performed Friday night at Crowbar as he toured off his sophomore solo album Adult Film.
Brooklyn indie-folk group Laura Stevenson and the Cans opened, touring with their own new record Wheel. The album features fuller instrumentation than their earlier work — when Stevenson still played in punk group Bomb the Music Industry! and it was largely just her gorgeous voice backed by guitar — and it translated into their live show. For instance, their rendition of A Shine to It now features the twang of steel guitar, and glockenspiel and accordion also made an appearance during their set.
It was sometimes a struggle to hear them over the din of audience members drinking and talking. Songs like the six-minute L-Dopa quietly build up to a cathartic climax, and it was a little bit of a fight against the background noise. Still, the band acquitted itself admirably and Stevenson was endearingly loopy, discussing all the cough drops in her purse, among other topics.
Yet that was nothing compared to what many were expecting when Kasher took the stage. “How was Fest? How was Halloween?” crowd members yelled out. “Halloween was great,” he replied, unfazed. “Fest was great.”
Apparently, Kasher played such a drunken set the night before it even shocked the crowd at Fest, where “drunk” is more or less synonymous with “on stage.” Supposedly, he dressed in a blood-soaked Carrie prom dress, sparred with the sound crew and got through about eight songs. Alternative Press editor Scott Heisel called it “one of the most surreal sets I’ve ever seen.” A less charitable description, from Twitter user @stevenxwelch: “From now on, when someone asks why I'm straightedge, I'm just going to say Tim Kasher at Fest 12.”
For his part, Kasher claimed these accounts were largely untrue, which certainly wouldn’t be unheard of in the immediate, unverified history of social media. Either way, anyone expecting a repeat performance was let down, even as Kasher was bought a shot and cup of whiskey during his set alone. Wearing a tie-dye Omaha, Nebraska shirt — the city where his bands and Saddle Creek originated — he played a straightforward, satisfying set spanning the various projects of his career.
Much of the setlist came from Adult Film, and anyone who knows Kasher from his bands or his more subdued solo record The Game of Monogamy might be surprised at how raucous his live act can be. Tracks like American Lit and Truly Freaking Out feature lingering keyboard lines and loud electric guitar that the band attacked with gusto. Bassist Sara Bertuldo had a particularly fierce stage presence, often swinging her instrument around wildly.
Still there were plenty of quieter moments, like when Kasher played The Game of Monogamy’s spare Strays backed by nothing but an acoustic guitar and melodica. And Stevenson returned to the stage to accompany him on the uneasy, lurching piano track Where’s Your Heart Lie.
Kasher also took to the piano to revisit The Recluse from Cursive’s much-loved 2003 album The Ugly Organ. He also played From the Hips off of Mama, I’m Swollen and The Good Life’s Lovers Need Lawyers.
Whether fans came to hear Kasher’s new solo album or these earlier tracks, they likely left sated. So now what? Should we keep our eyes out for Conor Oberst in Ybor City this weekend?
-- Jimmy Geurts, tbt*