Tim Kasher at the Mohawk – Reviewed
I walked into the Mohawk to see Tim Kasher, expecting that I would have a solid, cathartic cry about how growing up is more complicated than I was prepared for. Instead, I found myself smiling and laughing through most of his set, because — spoiler alert! — Tim Kasher is a funny, engaging and personably nerdy frontman. This brooding dude put up on a pedestal by so many emo kids has a wicked sense of humor, taking his shows from the potential “woe-is-me” fest that they could be, and making them, instead, enjoyably self-deprecating. Before seeing him live, I admired Tim for his brutal honesty and clever, cutthroat way with words. After, I had totally fallen for his quick wit and grain-of-salt attitude. Don’t get me wrong — Kasher feels and believes in what he’s singing. But he presents it all in this way that seems to shrug, “Now do with that what you will.” In Austin’s case, we devoured it.
The night kicked off with a band from Austin called Milk Thistle, and I was very pleasantly surprised with their gorgeous, pop-lined spin on psych rock. Lead singer Devin Usher stole the show for me: sporting glitter on his face and some very expressive eyebrows, his face told a million stories of pained exuberance and sarcastic sorrow. The band’s new bassist was also fun to watch, dancing (exactly like I do) with his shoulders and knees — if I were in a band, I’d perform just like him. Near the end of their set, guitarist TJ McDonald stopped playing briefly to point at the bear that crosses between trees in the woods on a projection on the inside Mohawk stage, and asked with real wonder in his voice after the song was over, “Anybody see the bear that walked through here?” Through the whole set, a voice in my head kept whispering, “This band has so much potential.” I’m excited to check out their new EP, Dread’s Bloom, and follow them as they continue to progress.
Aficionado was the second opener of the night, and they were too anchored in screamo (with random fits of metal and experiment) for me to really enjoy their songs. However, the lone female and flautist in their group was stellar, so I happily root for her in her future musical endeavors.
After Aficionado cleared the way, Tim Kasher and his band came out themselves to set up their equipment. The audience seemed unmoved, letting them take care of business and going about their own conversations. I was particularly grabbed by the sight of a tiny woman holding a fretless bass — I loved her immediately. When the band officially entered the scene at about midnight, the crowd woke up and Tim responded back with a head-tilted, sarcastic “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” Despite the playfulness, Kasher seemed legitimately smiley, happy to be on stage with this band at this moment.
Tim introduced his first song of the night by saying, “Before any good songs, here’s an awful song.” Someone in the audience shouted to him that this was probably not the best tactic to keep people around, and he countered, “No, that’s good, I’m trying to warn people so they can leave now. So, this is a shitty song, our whole set’s gonna be like this.” A woman near the front screamed, “Make me cry!” Tim said, “I dare you to cry,” and jumped into “Opening Night,” a track off of his recently released Bigamy EP. This tune is from a musician to the people in the industry, and a fitting (albeit depressing) start to the night.
It exploded into my favorite song from The Game of Monogamy, Tim’s solo album: “I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here.” This song is full of energy live, bouncing bubbly with a bit of ska flair care of trumpet soloing. The word joyful comes to mind — though the content is as melancholy as any other Kasher song, you can’t help but bop your head to this one. The entire audience, which had been fairly static up until this point, loosened up and let go, hopping around with as much abandon as you might expect to leak from a jaded indie kid.
At the close of the song, an inebriated fellow bellowed out, “You’re the man, Tim!” Tim responded, “You are, sir,” and then followed up sheepishly, “I want to apologize to everyone in here. I did shots with this guy earlier and — well, he has become less than fine.”
He played a few understated, pretty tunes next, including “The Jessica” and “No Fireworks,” and it was at this point that I noticed all of the couples that had attended this show together. It seemed very inappropriate — Kasher was singing about how difficult it was to be monogamous, how much couples take each other for granted, and how much love can suck and pacify us. But through all of this impurity, lovers held each other and gazed into one another’s eyes, in between mouthing the words right along with Tim. I guess if it works for you, it works.
Tim kicked it up again with “Bad, Bad Dreams,” another ska-fused tune that moved hips to shaking, and at its sweaty conclusion, Tim said, “I think we’re top-loading — we’ve had too much fun already. There is fun on the other side.”
Before the fun, though, it was time to get darker. Kasher’s trademark just-right whiney yelp reached its heights on “A Bluer Sea,” and “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost” was introduced to us as “a creepy one.”
“I have many songs about stalking, Tim said, “and this is one of them.” The vocals of this song were even starker than they are on the record, and even though a select few assholes decided to talk through the performance, it felt like we were being taught something, as Kasher articulated every word sharply.
By the song’s end, even the assholes had been hushed, and Tim noticed: “You guys seem really quiet right now, so I’m gonna pounce on this opportunity.” Someone shouted out that he should surprise us, and Kasher retorted that he’d surprise us with a slow one. “We’re practically like Gwar…you ever seen a total jackass play a really serious song?” He launched into “Strays,” a delicate song about one of his own personal falling-in-love experiences.
When “Surprise, Surprise” melted into “A Grown Man,” every man, woman and teen joined in the chorus, proclaiming, “I don’t want a kid, and I can’t keep being one.” Kasher’s punk streak peeked out as the song echoed in cacophonous desperation, and a few kids around me punched the air, trying to penetrate the invisible chains the song illuminated.
After “Prodigal Husband,” Kasher said they were ready to go off of their “setlist proper,” and he invited requests, sparking bellows from around the room, begging for one old favorite or another. Before jumping into his first audience-prompted selection, Tim gave us all a heartfelt thank-you for filling the venue on a Tuesday night. “You’ve made a Tuesday night feel like a Saturday night, and we thank you for that. You know, in Omaha, if you know where to go, every night can be a Saturday night.” The crowd and Tim’s band both giggled at this idea, and Tim chuckled, “Every night’s a Saturday night in Omaha — an old adage.”
Rich chords rang out and the crowd went wild when Kasher plunged into “Album of the Year,” the title track from an album by his band, The Good Life. Hands down, this was the biggest sing-along of the night, which put a big smile on Tim’s face, despite himself. He kept it up, proclaiming, “Here’s another jim-jam from yesteryear,” and played “Recluse.” This Cursive song from The Ugly Organ spoke to the longtime, hardcore fans, and came off jagged and punkish, being stripped down to its essential elements in the tiny room.
Kasher and his crew wrapped up their non-Monogamy songs with a cover of Elvis Costello’s “(I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea,” which wasn’t as big a hit with the young crowd as the previous two Kasher tunes, but fit perfectly in a setlist full of lusty admissions. Monogamy’s first single, “Cold Love,” was next, and woke the crowd back up before bringing everything to a head with “No Harmony.” As Kasher began to play his final song, he addressed the audience, “You guys killed it. Nice work out there.” After a brief tussle with a fan about the importance (or lack thereof) of Katie Holmes that prompted Kasher to perform the whitest Z-snap I have ever seen, “No Harmony” started in slow and steady, with quiet “uh huh”s from Kasher that seemed introspective. As the song gathered steam, the “uh huh”s became more anguished and unremitting, until everything exploded in passion. Kasher traded his guitar with Dylan Ryan’s drums, and the band jammed, relishing in this final moment onstage, spending it very presently with each other.
Tim Kasher and his band totally blew me away. They were spirited, vulnerable, and the perfect balance of serious and easygoing. It was a comfortable show that made me feel energized when I left it, like I had been touched by a common thought. I still believe in love, and I’m more excited than anxious about growing up, but it’s nice to know that when I’m feeling anxious, I can wrap myself in Kasher’s words to help me laugh at myself and take it in stride.