Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cass McCombs in Hipster Heaven on 9/10

Cass McCombs is an entertaining singer/songwriter with an old-time quality to his recordings and performances. A little rock-a-billy/alternative country is what I would label it if I worked for Rolling Stone. I caught his current band at The Bootleg in Phillipino Town last Thursday...

My roommate hooked me up with his extra ticket after someone bailed on what turned out to be a great show last Thursday night. Cass McCombs is one of those bands that plays in older styles without hitting you over the head with it or making you feel that you’re listening to some b.s. retro band. Genres that came to mind were rockabilly, alt. country, and pop rock in the vein of what is now called “classic rock.” The band was far from stellar and the sound was mashed all against the plywood walls of a theater that made me feel like I was back in Petaluma at someone’s barn party, but the group was undoubtedly a solid unit. The two best musicians seemed to be the drummer and McCombs although the keys were admittedly often lost and the extra guitarist did sound great when he got his chance to shine. The bass player had a Fender rig and matching Jazz that she played with a pick and I will admit that this is favorite tone of mine. A picked Fender jazz through a vintage tube amp with all of its grunt, roundness, and the pick digging the groove like a steam shovel through loose mud. She kept her lines extremely simple and opened things up for everyone else to dance on. This was great for the talented drummer who was able to play loud and outrageous or pick up a shaker and lay an understated accompanyment to her rock-solid foundation. Meanwhile, McCombs’ songwriting and tasty telecaster licks would weave and build underneath his strong lyrics, twangy melodies, and the well-crafted arrangements. The crowd consisted of mostly “beyond hipsters,” who were all wearing their carefully disheveled outfits, sneers, and coke vials. They were also thinning out as the night went on as expressed by Thomas McMahon on L.A. Record:

“Is there a new curfew in effect in L.A.? Young folks were dropping like well-dressed flies out of the Bootleg Theater as Cass McCombs rocked past the midnight mark. By the time he wrapped up his superb set, somewhere around 20 minutes past the hour, it felt like McCombs and crew were playing for a small group of friends in an abandoned building. (The Bootleg actually does look more like an abandoned building than a theater.)”

We were in this last group and perhaps this is why I left with the “Petaluma Barn Party” sentiment...After the show I picked up the new album, Catacombs, and to my delight the standout tunes from the set all seem to be on there.

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