photos and review by Tatiana Ryckman
The show didn’t end until the bar was nearing last call, and seeing Tim Kasher and Rock Band (as he lovingly referred to his crew on stage) was well worth the lost hours of sleep Sept. 6 at Mohawk in Austin. This was the kind of show where Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life) can kick an empty cup off the stage at the opening band, Aficianado, who have lined up to sing along, and it just feels like a real good joke.
Kasher promised a set of great songs — “Right after this shitty one,” he told the audience, setting the tone for the evening. The audience was packed against Mohawk’s faux wood paneling and responded with shouts and applause to his every word. "Shitty" song included.
This is a situation Kasher’s been getting used to throughout the tour for his new EP, Bigamy: More Songs From the Monogamy Sessions.
“[It’s] been amazing,” he tells me after the show, while standing next to a large taxidermied bear. “The crowds have been really sweet and responsive.”
This is no less true in Austin, where — despite being the first school night after a drunken Memorial Day weekend — the small indoor venue is stuffed with people looking so young and hopeful you'd think it was a 2008 Obama rally. The members of Aficianado thrash around like it's the first time seeing their favorite band, later revealing to me that it wasn't — "He's always like this. He's really funny,"
Young couples press against the stage to make a sort of emotional threesome, trying to become part of a song that had already become part of them.
Tim Kasher and Rock Band rock in a melodic way (I mean, they even have a melodica), with an undercurrent of sweetness that separates Kasher’s solo music from some of his other projects.
Kasher doesn't have a preference for playing solo or with a steady band.
“[One’s] not necessarily better or worse," he says. "At first, it was performance based, which was nice. This show’s much more personable.” That's clear in the way he finishes the song “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost,” about missing ex-girlfriends. He sings the closing lines like the punch line to a joke. His dramatic vocals wandering around the room, “I wonder if they ever feel empty like something is missing / They don’t, they don’t, they don’t ...” and then, in his regular voice, “They don’t though, they don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” The room loves it.
Stream "Jessica" from Bigamy here:
Just after kicking his freshly emptied plastic cup at the band members standing off stage, Kasher claims, “We’re just like Gwar, you have no idea what they fuck we’re going to do next,” and launches into a lovely slow-dance type melody. Strumming his guitar, he asks the audience, “Ever see a jackass play a serious song?” We laugh at the juxtaposition before he squeezes in: “Just think how I feel.”
It's amazing to see how Kasher’s beautiful narrative lyric style resonates with a live audience. As Kasher strums a sweet melody from the song “Strays," the song's narrative arches over the audience, which sways seeming quiet and appreciative. There's a palpable catharsis in his closing lines, “We’re a family of strays but together we’ve been found.” I even fumble my pen when he gets to the line, “Writers are egotists / I’m afraid I’m as bad as it gets.”
Tim Kasher and Rock Band finish the set with covers of his own music, "Because that seems to be what most people want to hear anyway," he acknowledged to an agreeable venue, full to capacity and singing along. He shows his musical prowess by switching to drums. (He also includes plenty of jokes at Katie Holmes’ expense).
It begins to feel weirdly as if everyone is meant to be in this room at this moment. Hidden under the obvious admiration of the musician on stage, there's an unusual camaraderie in the audience. Like a bunch of found strays, the audience ceases being a group of individuals who came to see Tim Kasher and turns into a group — all brought together by their shared love of his music. Another group make themselves known as Nebraska transplants by reacting to his Omaha references as loudly as any I’ve heard in the city itself — some yelling street names at random as he approaches the "Strays" line, "You were stranded on Jackson with a bus fare to who knows where."
Kasher, who’s recently returned to Nebraska himself, has some kind words about the state.
“Every night is a Saturday night in Omaha ... if you’re an alcoholic,” he says onstage. After the show, he tells me, “I’ve spent a year back in Nebraska. I feel it’s the best year in Nebraska I’ve had. I came back and recognized how much is going on in Omaha.”
* Purchase Bigamy: More Songs from the Monogamy Sessions at Saddle-Creek.com.
Tatiana Ryckman is HN's Austin correspondent. Leave glowing praise here, and send all other comments to Tatiana.Ryckman@gmail.com.