The underground music scene has precious few publicized dramas. There are no shootings, no high-profile collaborations and virtually no nationally televised girl-on-girl eroticism. Amidst a community that breeds so few headlines, you’d hardly expect Omaha, Neb., to shake things up.
Lately, however, the scene, spearheaded by grassroots label Saddle Creek, has stirred and rumbled like the sweaty dives it so often fills. Scene-stealing press monger Connor Oberst – he of Bright Eyes fame – is romantically linked with garment-stealing groupie Winona Ryder, and the Faint’s Todd Baechle was arrested for dancing nude onstage with Gwen Stefani. Add to this a stream of major label talent-seekers, and write ups in some heavyweight music rags, and you’ve got a bona fide explosion.
Not lost amid all this confusion are Cursive, a blistering, angular, post-punk quintet that are undeniably the scene’s backbone. Though many of their compatriots have found turmoil in newfound fame and the temptations of the majors, Cursive’s problems have remained internal. 2000’s Domestica carried the burden of bandleader Tim Kasher’s painful divorce, and sent waves through a close-knit community.
Last year, Kasher’s struggles continued, as a collapsed lung brought into sharp focus the lack of money and benefits available to an underground musician. Cursive persevered, however, and it’s no surprise that The Ugly Organ, released earlier this year, carries the sound of a band still licking its wounds.
The band’s catharsis, however, lies on the dirty stages of indie rock clubs across America. On the eve of the band’s second major tour this year, they still exude all of the confidence, dedication and optimism of a much younger band.
“We are all fairly happy and fun-loving people,” says bassist Matt Maginn, as if he’s used to people not believing him. “We try and just have a really good time and express energy through the music. (Guitarist) Ted (Stevens) likes to say, ‘We try and bring the party.’ It’s counter to our sound, but it’s more true to our lifestyle.” The band, which now has four albums and countless EP’s to draw from, will be mixing in older tracks with some of the The Ugly Organ’s less familiar tunes. “It’s funny though – no matter how much we mix it up, people get mad at us because we don’t play the same ones.”
No one is complaining back in Omaha, however. The band that kick-started the entire scene are respected amongst their peers and revered by their fans. Maginn says it’s all part of a cycle. “We had ‘parents’ before us too, bands that we grew up watching and learning from.” The band sowed the seeds for a thriving scene by correcting the mistakes of the bands that came before them. “We try and keep all our shows all-ages. There were too many bands that came to Omaha that I wanted to see when I was 16 to 20. Growing up I couldn’t see anything, unless it was in an arena.”
This strategy has landed the group fans all over the country, their private dramas projected through rickety speakers and shredded throats. As Maginn explains though, not everyone needs to relate directly to the emotional material. “The energy is there. I definitely connect with it at points, whether it’s direct or a vicarious nature.” The band brings that energy to the Majestic Theater on Friday night, and fans of spirited, soulful punk rock should have no trouble connecting.