By Allyson Bills
For some unknown reason, I don’t remember when I attended The Good Life’s last show in Phoenix, which was about eight years ago at the now-defunct Brickhouse. I still have the ticket stub to this show at home; I think I was distracted with trying to navigate around downtown Phoenix. I now know my way around Phoenix, and with this being said, I received a second chance to see The Good Life on Saturday night at Valley Bar in my adopted city. Any chance to see Tim Kasher, the lead singer of Cursive and jack-of-all trades, in an intimate club setting is a treat. I couldn’t not go, especially since The Good Life put out a fantastic new album earlier this year, Everybody’s Coming Down, the Omaha band’s most cohesive album to date.
At around 9:43 p.m., The Good Life took the stage with clay coffee cups and those bendable Christmas lights - or whatever you want to call them - attached to the amps and drum kit. They came out with a bang, beginning the set with “Everybody,” the second track off Everybody’s Coming Down. The song is a convincing raucous rock anthem that commanded the crowd’s attention (the question throughout the night would be how long) with Kasher’s trademark singing-shouting and killer riffs from multi-instrumentalist Ryan Fox. This is how you start a set!
With The Good Life’s ever-changing lineup besides Kasher, it’s hard to tell how the band’s chemistry will hold up during a set, especially if this is the first time you have seen this lineup live. It’s safe to say that The Good Life’s current lineup of Kasher, Fox, bassist-vocalist Stefanie Drootin (whose band Big Harp opened up the night) and drummer Roger Lewis bring new life to the older material in a way that I haven’t seen in the last eight years.
In “Needy,” from 2007’s seminal Album of the Year, the keyboards from Fox and long interlude, excellent guitar solos, harmonies from Drootin made this bluesy track one to remember for the night. “O’Rourke’s, 1:20 a.m.” from Black Out was perhaps the most unique song of the set with “ding-dongs” from the keys set resembling a Grandfather clock, and the build-up and quiet parts set up with Kasher’s shouting made for quite the dramatic number. Unfortunately, some other people in the audience didn’t share my sentiments, because during the quiet parts of the song, I could hear them have conversations in the back, and bothered some of the crowd enough to demand that they shut up. I guess Kasher singing “Get me the fuck out of here,” resonated with these particular people.
The new material from Everybody’s Coming Down demonstrated the bands chemistry. “Flotsam Locked into a Groove” was literally a groovy tune with Drootin showing off her bass abilities. Kasher’s trademark sense of humor was the precursor to “Holy S**t” when he stated before they played this song, “the whole point in getting back together was to be in Phoenix.” This song made perfect sense because of its lyrics, “Holy shit // We even exist.” I guess even Kasher is surprised The Good Life still exists. Kasher continues his tongue-in-cheek humor in “The Troubadour’s Green Room,” a folk-rock number that is actually about self-reflection on his music career, not the famous Los Angeles venue per se.
Other notable oldies, but goodies performed by the new lineup was “A Dim Entrance” from their 2000 debut album Novena On A Nocturn, a crowd favorite, with clever keyboards and harmonies from Kasher, Drootin and Fox that exuded a nightcap song. “So Let It Go” from Help Wanted Nights, a mid-tempo number, and subdue guitar-drum solo was one of the most poignant songs on the set. It was especially so with Kasher singing at the top of his lungs, “But the truth is you’re afraid of letting go.” In “Inmates,” also off Album of the Year, Drootin admitted before they played the song that she didn’t know all the lyrics and enlisted the audience to help her sing. The audience was somewhat willing - at least the front row was - but was largely disinterested because Drootin kept reminding them to help her out. It was a shame, since concerts are a place where we all come together, and Phoenix didn’t capitalize. I think this is large part to Phoenix people (in general) still being new to concert attending and etiquette, and sometimes unsure of how to act.
The Good Life capped off their hour-long set with “Forever Coming Down” from Everybody’s Coming Down. They saved the best for last with a hot jam session between Kasher, Drootin and Fox that got the front-row crowd coming down. There’s no way I wanted the show to end after this song.
Luckily, The Good Life continued the party, and the once-stoic crowd came to life during the encore. They finally realized that they were seeing the Tim Kasher in all his glory, despite it being a little too late. Before The Good Life began their three-song encore, Kasher knew this night just wasn’t about him, because he instructed the crowd to go hang out with his friend Johnny selling merch, noting that he was handsome and single. Their encore included “Heartbroke” from Help Wanted Nights, which featured a guitar solo from Kasher; “Album of the Year,” this particular album’s title track that enticed the largest sing-along from the crowd; and became surprisingly heavy at the end to the otherwise folky tune and quick, shortened tune “Empty Bed” from Black Out.
After the encore, Kasher gave high-fives the front row audience and the row back. Kasher is one of those few frontmen who can go through a whole night of talking about himself without coming across as self-absorbed because he’s so damn personable. As for myself, it was a show to remember, and one I won’t forget this time. Let’s hope that it won’t take The Good Life another eight years to come back to Phoenix.