Cass McCombs at the Hi-Dive
I am still not very sure how Cass McCombs got to Denver last Friday night. It had been blizzard conditions since Thursday, the highways in and out of town were closed, and the only cars to be seen were the parade of plows. Maybe he had arrived before the storm started, maybe he is a more determined live artist than most, or maybe he just had luck on his side. I sat in Sputnik, the bar adjacent to Hi-Dive, and rolled dice until I made enough money for another beer. I heard Frank Fairfield start his set and sauntered next door.
The audience, which was less than half-full the entire night, was completely captivated. Fairfield plucked his banjo with confidence, and no one spoke a word until his set was over. This beautiful silence carried over to Cass McCombs’ set, as if the cold outside had mellowed the usually rowdy Hi-Dive crowd.
Cass McCombs took the stage in flannel, with his touring band dressed nearly the same, and asked if everyone was happy. The crowd hollered back an unequivocal yes as he drove straight into “Equinox.” McCombs seemed unaware of his surroundings for the rest of the night, flitting happily over the room, turning slow burners like “County Line” into twenty-minute experimental jam sessions. He stopped only once to ask, “Is everyone still happy?” We were.
The guy next to me asked how I would classify Cass McCombs and then answered his own question, “Broadway Sultry.” It was true. McCombs possessed a weird, lonely stage presence as if he were performing a musical monologue. The night was beautiful, but I left the show feeling somewhat empty. I felt as if I would have been more fulfilled by walking in the snowy night. It was as if this night was all for Cass himself and not the audience. The more I thought about it, I realized he is fairly honest about his own ego.