“I knew at a really young age I needed to go somewhere else,” Tim Kasher replied candidly to an audience member of his Peoria, IL show last night who asked about his departure from Omaha, NE. “I call the hometown ‘The Couch,’ and sometimes you have to get off The Couch,” Kasher said in truth. And sometimes you have to go from Couch to Couch to Couch, as a storytelling bard of the Great Heartland. And thus Tim Kasher, a beloved son of the Midwest, kicked off his Living Room tour of hometowns across the “fly-over states” on March 19th, promoting his newest solo album Adult Film (2013) and “everything I’ve done in the last 18 years,” indulging fans in a generous variety of intriguingly stripped down tracks from bands Cursive and The Good Life. The tour began with a particular hometown where the artist has some history. Kasher chose Peoria, IL to open the tour because he is now a nearest-big-city Chicago resident and because, he says, “the Peoria/Bloomington area was one of the first to open their arms” to him back when Cursive first toured.
The nature of Kasher’s Living Room experience, an extremely intimate song showcase where palpable vulnerability as the artist opens the floor to audience requests mixes with charming self deprecating humor as he works through the tough ones, doesn’t phase Peoria, IL. In fact, it seems totally natural: Two guys (Kasher and his only bandmate on this tour, Patrick Newbery) roll into town in their station wagon, set up their own sound system and chat with the room about the new sound system sucking before the show begins. Like most midsize Midwestern cities, Peoria’s insular music scene has been throwing this kind of improvised small house show for as long as we can remember. And some elements will always be present: 1. Moments where nothing is happening or something’s wrong with the sound, 2. Moments where an audience member or two test boundaries by chatting up the artist between songs, and 3. Boundary breaking probably inspired by multiple flasks of whiskey being passed around… That’s how we do in hometown USA. But Tim Kasher wasn’t phased by Peoria at all either. He has always fit in here and always will. The show took place at a small micro-roast coffee house, Thirty-Thirty Coffee, where musicians set up a small stage beneath the frozen embrace of a giant black bear passed down from a bygone Peoria hotel nearby.
The duo (Kasher on acoustic guitar, Nord keyboard and DRUMS! and Newbery on what seemed like a new instrument every couple of minutes, from synth to trumpet) opened the show with newer Adult Film fare like the forthright pop track “A Rain Cloud is a Rain Cloud” and “You Scare Me to Death,” a song full of that quintessential bittersweet pessimism: “The more I try to love someone, the more the horror grows.” As the night went on and Kasher strategically rolled out his first-hand confessional arsenal, a peculiar mood struck the Living Room– something like a neon Motel sign in the pouring rain– a certain emotional noir that mesmerized the small room, where you could hear everyone holding their breath between the more tragic lines (made even more impactful in their new quietly strummed and conversational incarnations.) “I know other depressing songs too,” Kasher cracked, breaking the spell and moving courageously into audience request territory.
Peoria proved to be an “old school” Kasher town, requesting “anything pre-Domestica” from Cursive and titles from The Good Life’s Noverna on a Nocturne (2000) and Black Out (2002), but one of the highlights of the show was a B-Side heavily requested elsewhere called “Rabbit, Run” off his solo album Bigamy (2011– an extension of The Game of Monogamy released in 2010). This literary tribute to John Updike stood out as the signature live track for this tour of dark highways through middle of nowheres, from one little city to the next. “I love you all, but only for an instant,” the lyrics go, and this felt true of the moment– an unforgettable one– where Kasher sat on “The Couch” with us and tells his best stories. Among others, some requests Kasher complied to were: “Album of the Year” and “Some Tragedy” from The Good Life, “I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here” off his first solo album and “The Recluse” from Cursive. Kasher worked through unexpected or challenging requests like a champ but with the disclaimer, “You know, I’m more a songwriter, less a musician.” He ended this first Living Room show experience with a beautifully raw rendition of “Driftwood: A Fairy Tale” from The Ugly Organ and then it was through, our moment in the Living Room with a legend in our local regard. Kasher moves on to Champaign, IL tonight and then on to MO and his own Couch of Omaha, NE. You can find all tour dates and tickets through Undertow Music’s tour page here.