On Wednesday night, I watched Cass McCombs perform at the Bowery Ballroom. Here's a quick review of the show.
Cass McCombs – Love Thine Enemy
It was my first time at the Bowery Ballroom, and I really liked the venue. Cass had a good sized crowd that watched him perform a twelve song set. On his recent releases, Wit's End and Humor Risk, most songs stretch beyond the four or even five minute mark. This held true for his performance that spanned his entire discography: each tune was expansive and drawn out and, all told, filled nearly 90 minutes. For the most part, this was a good thing, as I enjoyed when the band locked into a groove and let the sounds take over. The five-piece group offered an interesting contrast between tight and precise, like set opener "Love Thine Enemy," which was anchored by drummer Daniel's mechanistic precision, or more relaxed and loose, as on closer "County Line," which had more of a soft-rock jam vibe.
The performance was not incredibly engaged with the audience. Cass did not banter with or even acknowledge us, except to mention opener Frank Fairfield at the outset and introduce his band at the close of the show. With a stage backlit by gold LEDs that flickered and swirled in grid-like patterns but no other lights, the effect was of seeing shadows perform. Sometimes in-between song discussion feels forced, but it was a bit jarring to watch a band play as if it didn't even realize anyone was watching. Nevertheless, it was a solid show overall and makes me want to explore Cass' discography in more detail.
Also, opening act Frank Fairfield put on a rousing performance of very old tunes, ranging from the Reconstruction era to the Great Depression. He would alternate between fiddle, banjo, or acoustic guitar, only accompanied by the stomping of his foot for percussion, which would generally stimulate clapping in the audience and more than a few whistles. He reminded me of Ron Burgundy in looks, if Anchorman were set in the 1870s, not the 1970s. I really enjoyed his passion for the music; many of the songs were introduced by a rambling story, but more importantly, he was clearly putting all of his energy into the performances. More than a few strings on his bow snapped from some furious fiddling. You can check out his recent Daytrotter session for a taste if you missed the show.