Columbia, Maryland (08.06.04)
With a summer full of cancelled tours, Curiosa is one of the few to survive the drought of fan support. Maybe it was the right combination of bands (The Cure, The Rapture, Interpol, and Mogwai) that attracted the crowds, or maybe it was the need to see Robert Smith still rocking his make-up. Whatever the reason, I had to make the trek to Curiosa; the festival of the summer.
Before the shows started, I had a chance to talk to Auf der Maur. Melissa Auf der Maur, formerly of Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins, recently released her solo debut on Capitol and was as down to earth as one could be. We sat on the ground outside of her tour bus and started chatting. She was excited to be part of this “beautiful” thing that Robert Smith had created. Describing the crowds as “intelligent and left of center,” she was happy to know there was a crowd that was still attracted to artists that are in it for just making music. More concerned with making music that she was satisfied with then pleasing others, Auf der Maur has respectable reasons for being in the industry.
After talking to Melissa, I met the Rapture. While their music is wonderful, they were quite unpleasant folks. Surprisingly, Daryl Palumbo (of Glassjaw and Head Automatica) was exceedingly nice and full of thanks for coming out to the show.
Head Automatica kicked off the show. They had a tight set and flawless performance. I really don’t like Glassjaw, but I thoroughly enjoyed Head Automatica. High energy and adrenaline sparked their performance and ran throughout the set. They were followed on- stage by Mogwai. Now, forty-five minutes to play isn’t that long, and if you are familiar with Mogwai, you know that there will only be room for about four songs. To say the least, the Mogwai set disappointed me. Had it been longer, I could have enjoyed it, but I just can’t grasp them in a mere forty-five minutes.
The Cooper Temple Clause took the second stage next, and while I wasn’t impressed with their CD, they are impressive as a live unit. They managed to pull of five good songs in only thirty minutes. On the main stage, the Rapture began their set immediately after the end of Cooper Temple Clause. Their performance at Curiosa was sub-par compared to the other times I’ve seen them. Normally I want to get up and dance when I hear the music, but I ended up bored and despondent. Auf der Maur were the third act on the second stage and her performance was solid. In her thirty-minute slot, she managed to do a great job of getting the crowd into the music.
Interpol were the biggest disappointment of the show. I love Turn on the Bright Lights, but their live show left a lot to be desired. Just to emphasize that, don’t waste your money to see them live. All they do is stand there like they are glued to the ground; listen to their CDs, it’s a much better experience.
The last act on the second stage were Muse. While huge overseas, they have been slow to catch on in the States. Not surprisingly, they put on the best show of the night. It was a packed crowed around the stage, and they performed to every standard I had set for them. They are a great live band and their latest, Absolution, is worth your dime.
While everyone else performed either thirty or forty-five minute sets, The Curewere on stage for two hours. Robert Smith sounds just like he did when he came out, just looks a little more haggard these days. They played flawlessly, had two encores, and were altogether fabulous. There isn’t much else to say; Why? Because it’s The Cure.
All in all, the festival went along seamlessly. I commend the managers on their planning of the shows. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to stand around to wait for the next act to start playing. It was band after band in a flawless succession. Forty dollars is worth it just to see Muse and the Cure alone.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.