When I first heard that Cursive was going to play The Venue, I thought, "The Venue? I'll don my tightest black pants and do some exaggerated kung-fu dancing." Upon arriving at the show, however, I realized there would be no judo act; I was there to see Cursive. For their current tour, the esteemed Saddle Creek outfit decided to truck along a keyboardist/cellist, and (according to the band's Web site, www.cursivearmy.com) a "kick ass, blazing horn section." Yes, indeed, this was to be a night of high entertainment, with two quality opening bands to boot.
Chicago natives Chin Up Chin Up began the evening with songs from their two interestingly titled LPs, We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers and This Harness Can't Ride Anything. Their sound is a mixture of atmospheric guitars and keyboards contrasted against lead singer Jeremy Bolen's dry, monotone vocals. This was my first time hearing them, and judging by the crowd reaction, Chin Up Chin Up might just be headlining their own tour soon.
Next came The Thermals, who delivered an onslaught of power-chord punk and garage/grunge feedback. Bassist Kathy Foster pogo-ed around the stage like the good old days as The Thermals blasted through a set heavy on songs from their sophomore album, Fuckin' A. In keeping with the full-sound theme of the night, they brought along an extra guitarist to augment their minimalist style. The performance was high energy and left the crowd pumped to hear more music.
After a bit of a wait, Cursive took the stage in all their blazing-horn-section glory. Fresh from a pseudo-acoustic performance at The Record Exchange, lead singer/songwriter Tim Kasher informed the crowd that he had spent at least part of his pre-Venue show time at Mulligan's. The drinks must have helped, because Cursive put on a performance that had the reserved Venue crowd throwing fists in the air and singing along to favorites like "Staying Alive" and "Making Friends and Acquaintances." The set list included songs from the new album Happy Hollow (of course), as well as fan favorites Domestica and Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, the first Cursive LP. The band fired on all cylinders, with the horn section adding surprisingly poignant touches to some songs that never originally had horns. Cursive's music is simultaneously thoughtful and hard, and it made for an impressive, vital performance at The Venue.