Living in Happy Hollow

I think it's very safe to say that last night's show at the Gypsy Tea Room was the best show I've seen all year. Cursive headlined, Jeremy Enigk played second and the Cops opened. Yes, I usually complain about paying for service fees and parking for shows like these, but this one was totally worth it.

I was lucky to see Jeremy play twice as he played a five-song set at Good Records in the afternoon. As a longtime fan of his stuff, it was great to see him perform solo with only guitar and piano at his disposal. He played songs from his recent solo album, World Waits, along with a couple of prime tracks from Return of the Frog Queen (including "Explain") and a song from the United States of Leland score. Though he would play all five of these songs again in a few hours, I didn't mind.

The Cops are from Seattle and their material often reminded me of Mission of Burma. Though there were no noise-filled jams, there were definitely parts that sounded like the great Boston band. Most of their material had that pulsing dance beat that you can clap along to. Decent stuff, but once Jeremy got on stage, it was a different story.

Though Jeremy performed this summer with a full band, it was just him on this tour. You could speculate all you wanted to about the lack of drums, lead guitar, bass and strings with performing this stuff solo, but Jeremy stole the show. His voice still sounds incredible and it filled the ballroom up. He was really relaxed and cheerful between songs, but he went off into a different world when he played. His presence wasn't contrived or silly; it was the Jeremy Enigk that people have been glued to ever since Diary.

I wasn't expecting Jeremy to play any Sunny Day songs, but he casually rolled into a version of "How It Feels to Be Something On" at the piano. Though slower than the album version and less bombastic, it sounded so good on piano (especially the ascending melody at the tail-end of the pre-chorus). In addition to the five songs he played at the in-store, he did a rousing rendition of "Shade and the Black Hat" from Return of the Frog Queen. Though its outro was him banging away on the piano, it felt like an interesting way to jumble up the set's vibe.

Following the set-closing "Explain," I saw something that I had never seen before: a non-headliner be called out for an encore. Jeremy tried walking up the steps to the green room, but he came back. There was thunderous applause and a number of pleas for another song and he delivered. Doing a charged version of John Lennon's "Mother," I was blown away. I don't really know Lennon's version, but Jeremy made the song so intensely personal. Yet at no point did I feel like I was watching Dashboard Confessional perform. This was such an awe-inspiring set and I didn't feel old. It was nice to see people appreciate Jeremy as a solo artist instead of That Dude from Sunny Day Real Estate. He's not trying to escape his previous life as SDRE's frontman, but he is moving on. That in itself is a major point of inspiration.

As far as Cursive, they were excellent as usual. Playing an equal amount of songs from Domestica, The Ugly Organ and Happy Hollow, I had no complaints. Augmented by a horn section (trumpet, sax, trombone) and a cellist, there were no empty spots in the Ugly Organ or Happy Hollow material. The horns played a little bit on the songs from Domestica and that was pretty sweet. More accents than anything else, they added some nice colors. They encored with "Sink to the Beat" and it blew the roof off. Tim Kasher even pulled a guy up from the crowd to play his guitar during the song's middle eight. The guy was pretty great as he did some simple soloing that never veered into pure wankery. A very cool way to end the night.

Overall, the whole show was fantastic. Plus, it was not a bust attendance-wise. There were a lot of people my age there, but so were a number of teenagers. Yes, the same people that allegedly all bow down at the Temple of Chris Carrabba, Gerard Way and Pete Wentz. Yet everybody seemed very into it all. Like Jeremy Enigk, Cursive isn't marketed to death to "the kids." They still make incredibly dense music after all these years. Plus, people actually care about what they have to offer even if it's not all over MTV, Fuse or glossy magazines. I think I should remember this before I pass future judgment on this younger generation.