Live – Mayday Get Hot And Sweaty At Schubas
I’ve never seen Cursive perform live, so when I got the chance to write a review on Mayday, Ted Stevens’ (Cursive, Lullaby for the Working Class) recent solo project, I jumped. However, up until actually having made it to the show was I able to realize that Mayday is more than a simple offshoot of Cursive. The history of Mayday, both it’s members and their name, have a lineage that is communicated in the depths each song. Ted Stevens is no doubt a masterful singer/songwriter, and in Mayday he is backed by other talented musicians with whom he has built creative relationships via Cursive and Lullaby for the Working Class.
I rushed through the venue doors just as the band was beginning their first song. Surprisingly, I recognized the tune as the single “Pelf Help” from the group’s new album Bushido Karaoke. It’s hot in Chicago and Schubas was no exception. Sweat poured down Ted Stevens’ face, turning his eyes a deep red. But the heat didn’t seem to affect Stevens or any other band members’ ability to execute their instruments with precision. I was actually amazed at how tight the four-piece was able to pause or pull off a dramatic break down, considering the likelihood of extended rehearsals is probably unrealistic. But perhaps the groups ability to work together says something about past time spent together or their ability to communicate the same idea at the same time through the use of their instruments.
I stood in the front row and attempted to place the band in a particular genre, or think of some clever way of describing what I heard. Coincidentally, it wasn’t as easy as I may have hoped because although the moods of each song have a string of similarities, the actual melodic structure of each song can vary greatly. By blending elements of blues, country, folk, doo-wop, and rock-a-billy, the band is able to develop a rich sound that is given a rustic texture with the aid of Stevens’ rough voice.
Halfway through the set, the band made a slight switch and the line up moved from moog to banjo and occasionally bass to electric guitar. This rearrangement continued to make it increasingly difficult to place a simple label on the group, while simultaneously exhibiting the versatile skills of each band mate. The added banjo couldn’t stop reminding me of that opening scene in Deliverance, but I enjoy the distinct element its sound provided each following song.
It was subtle elements such as the banjo or Tiffany Kowalski’s complex violin solos that showed serious depth and conviction. All too often side projects or off shoots of more profitable bands never have the time to fully develop before being forced to dissolve. This is not the case with Mayday. The superb talent of each member, as well the passion and energy exerted with each performed song, force a place in the world for this unique band.