Tag Archives: Cass McCombs

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Sam Evian and Uni Ika Ai Keep It Local at Rough Trade NYC Saturday

May 3rd, 2017

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Owens is known for fronting Brooklyn trio Celestial Shore, but he does the solo thing as Sam Evian (above, the video for “Sleep Easy”). And to that end, his debut long-player, Premium (stream it below), inspired by the likes of Shuggie Otis, Jackson Browne and Cass McCombs, came out last summer. AllMusic said it’s a “seductive listen that’s equally suited for early morning hangovers and late, late nights.” While No Depression added: “Premium is a spaced-out gem of trippy, layered instrumental arrangements and Evian’s smooth, creamy harmonies. And it is the perfect soundtrack for you last days of summer, with its beachy, bright coolness.”

Brooklyn dream-pop act Uni Ika AiMaia Friedman (vocals, synths and guitar), Peter Lalish (guitar and synths), Tom Deis (keys, bass and vocals) and Dan Drohan (drums and percussion)—also put out a first LP, Keeping a Golden Bullseye in the Corner of My Mind (stream it above), last year. In dubbing it a “stunning debut album,” the Wild Honey Pie went on to say, “The songs are dreamy without becoming cloudy—they exist within a comfortable haze and tempo, but don’t succumb to feeling lethargic or apathetic. The vocals and instrumentals push forward with ease, creating tracks that feel steady but triumphant, relaxed but purposeful.” Uni Ika Ai (below, doing “Mexico” for Sofar Sounds) have teamed up with Sam Evian for a few shows this week, and you can catch them both on Saturday night at Rough Trade NYC. A third Brooklyn act, Wilder Maker, opens.

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Overcoats Sound Right at Home at Sold-Out Rough Trade NYC

April 21st, 2017

Overcoats – Rough Trade NYC – April 20, 2017

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Sisterhood runs deep between best friends Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell, a bond so strong it’s birthed a band, Overcoats. The New York City–based duo’s debut, Young, is a reverie of R&B soul folktronica coproduced by Nicolas Vernhes (Daughter, Torres, Dirty Projectors, Cass McCombs) and fellow singer-songwriter Autre Ne Veut. NPR’s Bob Boilen recently described the record as “driven by ambition and passion, not craft … the emotion in their harmonies and the space they give each other is filled with compassion.” Last night, the inseparable pair graced a sold-out Rough Trade NYC on the eve of their new EP’s release, donning white jumpsuits and silver platform boots. Microphone stands adorned with flowers and garlands of cameo silhouettes set the stage as their first headlining tour opened with the rhythmic “Smaller Than My Mother.” The crowd swayed to the lullaby of “Hold Me Close” before Elion exclaimed, “We are so fucking excited to be here.”

Covering the entirety of their album with the exception of one track (“Father”), the kindred spirits garnered much love from fans as the mutual admiration between each singer was palpable. They embraced often in between songs and danced side by side without a care in the world. When introducing the debut single “Little Memory,” Elion confessed it was the first one the girls had written together. The duo covered Hozier’s “Cherry Wine” midway through the set. Elion laid her head on Mitchell’s shoulder to preface “Siren,” as she proceeded to sing, “I feel many weights of many worlds on my shoulders.” In a speech that was carved out on the set list, Mitchell offered their gratitude to touring drummer Joao Gonzalez, Andy on sound and their agents. An overwhelming acknowledgement of the upcoming year ahead left the women truly humbled before an encore of the hymnal “Mother” and the rollicking “Leave the Light On” concluded the performance with a fever pitch of participatory claps. —Sharlene Chiu

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Chris Cohen Brings New Music to Mercury Lounge Tonight

June 3rd, 2016

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chris Cohen (above, his video for “Yesterday’s on My Mind”) might be best known for his psychedelic work with Deerhoof, Cass McCombs and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti—and for fronting the Curtains. Been he’s been doing his own thing as a solo artist since the release of Overgrown Path (stream it below) in 2012, which according to Tiny Mix Tapes, “sees Cohen going it alone with quiet confidence and a penchant for understatement. Even if only a certain laxity of attention recommends itself at first, this short collection compels repeat spins and sidesteps the captious critical faculty. The unhurried charm and ease disarm, their joys compulsively fruitful.” Cohen (above, doing “”) returned with his sophomore solo effort, As if Apart (stream it below), just last month. AllMusic calls it “another impressive album of easygoing yet tightly wound psych-pop gems…. As If Apart maintains a laid-back, weekend-afternoon feel, but it never seems too lazy, as Cohen is clearly adept at crafting pleasant yet sophisticated songs.” Touring behind the new music, he plays Mercury Lounge tonight. And CE Schneider Topical and Anni Rossi open the show.

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Cassw McCombs Plays Favorites and More at The Bowery Ballroom

January 8th, 2016

Cass McCombs – The Bowery Ballroom – January 7, 2016

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Another year of rocking and grooving at The Bowery Ballroom kicked off last night with a stacked bill and a sold-out room. Soldiers of Fortune christened the venue for 2016 with a you-might-just-want-to-call-in-sick-tomorrow opening set that played like a single, amorphous 45-minute piece of music. The self-proclaimed “anti-band” supergroup with three guitars, a percolating bass and the perpetual-drum-machine that is Kid Millions showered the growing crowd with layers of noise and melodies.

It might’ve seemed an odd opener for Cass McCombs, but he does appear on their album (although no sit-in Thursday night) and has a more open spirit in his live show than you might have guessed. Near the start of his two-hour headlining set, McCombs sang about being “behind the wheel of a bulldozer” in “Big Wheel.” He may have been referring to his excellent backing band, moving around earth with their double-drummer setup, Jon Shaw on the perpetually bouncing bass and Dan Iead providing increasingly scintillating solos on lead guitar. The set list skipped from fan favorite to fan favorite—the guy standing next to me must have exclaimed, “This is my favorite song” at least three times over the course of the night, and he was likely correct in each instance. Highlights kicked off early when Iead moved to pedal steel for “Brighter!,” providing tasty atmosphere to complement McCombs’ vocals, halfway between country and ’60s pop, while stationary disco lights surrounded the band like blobs of starlight.

The set hinged on a strong stretch of singer-songwriter-meets-crusher-live-band tunes including “Name Written in Water,” “My Sister, My Spouse”—which featured an extended outro with expert interplay between Iead and Shaw—and “Robin Egg Blue” with Iead’s best solo of the night opening into a drum-led full-band jam, McCombs letting things go loose for a while. While your standard Thursday night set would have come to a close at this point, McCombs had a whole crock pot full of excellent material still simmering and ready to dish out to the eager audience. The show’s final half was filled with similar highlights: pedal-steel-flavored folk, hippie rock ramblers, heavy bangers and mellow FM groovers. The weird and wild encore eclipsed the midnight hour, the room still full of a pepped crowd, the music dominated by another all-inclusive, open-ended jam that wrapped around a total space-out and a double drum solo before finally coming back to close out the truly proper kickoff of the year’s music calendar. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Cass McCombs Plays The Bowery Ballroom on Thursday

January 5th, 2016

Singer-songwriter Cass McCombs’ calling card is his distinctive voice, both lyrically and aurally. Prior to actually releasing any music, his dark, funny stories earned him a slot touring with one of Will Oldham’s bands and Oxes, which eventually led to McCombs putting out his debut EP, Not the Way (stream it below), in 2002. Two LPs, and stints in the Pacific Northwest, England and Baltimore, followed before he found himself on the road with Modest Mouse. Since then, McCombs (above, doing “Omie Wise” for WAMU FM ) has relocated to the mellow vibes of California, but he remains as busy as ever, his style of music often changing with each release. Despite putting out two well-received albums in 2011, Wits End (stream it below) and Humor Risk (stream it below), the indie-minded troubadour released an Americana-tinged double LP, Big Wheel and Others (stream it below), in 2013. Not one to rest on his laurels, McCombs returned in 2015 with an anthology of B-sides and rarities, A Folk Set Apart (stream it below), out just a few weeks ago. “Culled from over a decade’s worth of home and studio recordings, this certainly the cabinet of curiosities you’d expect from the prolific singer-songwriter,” according to AllMusic. And although it rehashes much of his career, “There is enough strong material here to attract new fans and provide longtime listeners a deeper look into McCombs’ curious world.” See him play The Bowery Ballroom on Thursday night. “Art rock supergroup” Soldiers of Fortune opens the show.

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Let Music Be Your Guide on Halloween

October 31st, 2014

Halloween, like New Year’s Eve, is one of those nights that can bring out the worst in people. So rather than getting stuck in parade traffic or stepping in puke on the sidewalk, let live music be your guide tonight. Sohn at Music Hall of Williamsburg and Phil Lesh & Friends at the Capitol Theatre are already sold out, but no worries, because we’ve still got plenty of other options for you:

1. At Mercury Lounge, Booga Sugar hosts their Boogaween Costume Ball, alongside Lead of Foxes and Blubba Brothers.
2. Mercury Lounge also has a late show, obviously, with Park Slope five-piece Bernardo.
3. Brooklyn Bowl has electronic duo Capital Cities with Sneaky Sound System and Night Terrors of 1921.
4. The Bowery Ballroom will have some instrumental illness with Texas quartet This Will Destroy You, plus Future Death and Silent Land Time Machine.
5. Rough Trade NYC welcomes the legendary Meat Puppets and the funny, talented troubadour Cass McCombs.
6. And Terminal 5 plays host to the Royal Family Halloween Ball featuring Lettuce and Soulive with Branx opening.

In other words, we’ve got something for everyone. So get involved.

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Papercuts Play the Early Show at Mercury Lounge on Saturday

September 4th, 2014

Jason Quever is a busy dude. He’s got a home studio in San Francisco and works as a singer, songwriter and producer. On top of that, he’s collaborated with all sorts of other musicians, including Cass McCombs, plus he fronts his own indie-pop musical collective, Papercuts. The band’s first album, the lush Mockingbird (stream it below), arrived in 2004. But it was Can’t Go Back (stream it below), released three years later, which put Papercuts (above, doing “Future Primitive” live in studio for KEXP FM) on the map. Pitchfork approved: “West Coast to the core, it’s music for the journey, not for the arrival, the soundtrack to getting somewhere else rather than music to get lost to. Or maybe both.” Their most recent full-length, Life Among the Savages (stream it below), came out this past May. And again, critics, were impressed. Per PopMatters, “Jason Quever’s Papercuts has crafted a near-perfect collection of contemporary baroque pop ruminations on the modern condition, one of isolation, sadness and an affectation that requires us to present an outward façade not generally indicative of the emotional turmoil raging within.” And you can see Papercuts live on Saturday night at Mercury Lounge.

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Boston Calling: Summer Starts Tonight

May 23rd, 2014

Summer this year officially lasts from 6/21 to 9/21, but the summer season runs differently, bracketed by two fantastic Boston Calling festivals—over Memorial Day weekend and the weekend after Labor Day. This Saturday and Sunday are already sold out, but the good news is that this year Boston Calling packs in even more music and kicks off a night earlier, with a full-on folk attack beginning tonight at 6 p.m. with Jack Johnson, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Cass McCombs.

And as things begin winding down at beaches across the land, Boston Calling returns with another fantastic three days and nights of nonstop music in early September: the National, Neutral Milk Hotel and Future Islands on 9/5, Lorde, Childish Gambino, Girl Talk, Volcano Choir, the Hold Steady, Bleachers, Skey Ferreira, S. Carey and Clifflight on 9/6, and Nas, the Roots, the Replacements, Spoon, the 1975, Twenty One Pilots, Lake Street Dive, the War on Drugs, White Denim, San Fermin and Gentlemen Hall on 9/7.

(Take a look at last year’s inaugural Boston Calling, above.)

 

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Cass McCombs Returns to Play Music Hall of Williamsburg Thursday

May 20th, 2014

Singer-songwriter Cass McCombs’ calling card is his distinctive voice, both lyrically and aurally. Prior to actually releasing any music, his dark, funny stories earned him a slot touring with one of Will Oldham’s bands and Oxes, which eventually led to McCombs putting out his debut EP, Not the Way (stream it below), in 2002. Two LPs, and stints in the Pacific Northwest, England and Baltimore, followed before he found himself on the road with Modest Mouse. Since then, McCombs (above, doing “Brighter,” “Angel Blood” and “Morning Star” for Triple R Melbourne radio) has relocated to the mellow vibes of California, but he remains as busy as ever. Despite putting out not one but two well-received albums in 2011, Wits End and Humor Risk, the indie-minded troubadour returned last year with a double LP, Big Wheel and Others (stream it below). In a review filled filled with praise, Pitchfork says it “takes root in this fertile soil of Americana, crafting a sprawling cosmology out of its characters from the past two centuries.” Of course, the music is actually a lot more fun than that, especially played live. But don’t take our word for it: Go check out McCombs on Thursday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Endless Boogie open the show.

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Americana with a Creative Edge at The Bowery Ballroom

December 13th, 2013

Cass McCombs – The Bowery Ballroom – December 12, 2013


Onstage behind Cass McCombs and his band last night at The Bowery Ballroom was a large array of randomly blinking light bulbs so that from the back of the room it appeared as if they were playing in front of a gigantic Christmas tree, or perhaps from inside the tree itself. It was a warm, relaxed, sparkling mood that just felt right as the singer-songwriter opened with “Big Wheel” off his new album, Big Wheel and Others. Immediately there was a festive bounce in the room—drums and bass laying a turkey-dinner foundation for McCombs’ vocals. By the second song, “There Can Be Only One,” it was clear that his band—Joe Russo on drums, John Shaw on bass and Dan Iead on guitar—wasn’t going to allow a straight reading of the album.

The quartet established a cozy comfort, a roomy pair of slacks for that I-ate-too-much holiday meal. Russo and Shaw filled spaces with subtle excursions and groovy rhythms, allowing McCombs to explore. This was Americana with a creative edge, each song a homemade ornament to hang on the tree. Little rockers made way for more engaging and transporting moments. “Morning Star” was beautiful: light and easy basslines with some reverb guitar from Iead.

At one point, the stage lights went out, leaving only the silhouette of the band in front of those flickering bulbs. The effect was otherworldly as Allaire moved to the pedal-steel guitar for “Angel Blood,” whirling gorgeous lines while McCombs played off him with his lyrics and guitar. McCombs then reached into his back catalog with the hard-pounding “What Isn’t Nature,” Russo’s drums delivering the rock-out blow. “County Line” found McCombs soulful, hitting the falsetto with eggnog smoothness. Throughout the 90-minute set there were few extraneous notes, no wasted energy and no lost opportunities. In an ironic ugly-Christmas-sweater world, it was an earnest love-of-music kind of night, wrapped up and placed right beneath the tree. —A. Stein

 

 

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Cass McCombs Brings New Tunes to The Bowery Ballroom Tomorrow

December 11th, 2013

Singer-songwriter Cass McCombs’ calling card is his distinctive voice, both lyrically and aurally. Prior to actually releasing any music, his dark, funny stories earned him a slot touring with one of Will Oldham’s  bands and Oxes, which eventually led to McCombs putting out his debut EP, Not the Way, in 2002. Two LPs, and stints in the Pacific Northwest, England and Baltimore, followed before he found himself on the road with Modest Mouse. Since then, McCombs (above, doing “County Line” for Pitchfork TV) has relocated to the mellow vibes of California, but he remains as busy as ever. Despite putting out not one but two well-received albums in 2011, Wits End and Humor Risk, the indie-minded troubadour returned this year with a double LP, Big Wheel and Others (stream it below). In a review filled filled with praise, Pitchfork says it “takes root in this fertile soil of Americana, crafting a sprawling cosmology out of its characters from the past two centuries.” But, of course, the music is actually a lot more fun than that, especially played live. So check out Cass McCombs tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom.

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Simply Heavenly

December 11th, 2012

Andrew Bird – Riverside Church – December 10, 2012


You knew it was going to be special before the music even started. Walking into Riverside Church, the audience sat in pews under an arched ceiling that was so high it may as well have reached the sky and looked upon a stage filled with so many Victrola horns, big and small like some steampunk public address system, it may as well have been a zillion. The possibilities seemed infinite. Finally Andrew Bird took the stage for the first of two intimate Gezelligheid shows, the solo, instrumental concert that, in the end, was neither solo nor instrumental.

The music started as ethereal, semi-improvised compositions, Bird mixing, sampling and looping violin, glockenspiel and his whistling into music apparitions that weaved through the stone archways of the church, becoming part of the architecture. The music seemed to take on a life of its own after leaving the horns, notes bouncing back and forth against one another, foreshadowing future interactions and eliciting awed silence from the crowd. Bird and the horns cast looming shadows on the walls, adding perfectly to the ambiance, with the bow of his violin the silhouette of a sorcerer casting his wand. Real songs made their way into the set: old songs reimagined, new melodies that weren’t yet songs fully realized and even a Cass McCombs cover. At some point, Bird’s bass player, Alan Hampton, joined in (“You didn’t think I was going to do this all by myself, did you?”), and the duo closed the first set with a strong stretch that included a new song, “Pulaski at Night,” a reworked “Orpheo Looks Back,” off Break It Yourself, and a pitch-perfect “Plasticities.”

After a short break, Bird returned with Hampton and special guest Tift Merritt. The second set provided a nice contrast to the open-ended first, more focused on songs from both Break It Yourself and his newest, Hands of Glory. He described it as an “old-timey” vibe, and the trio huddled together harmonizing around a single microphone. They opened with “Give It Away” followed by a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” the tenor of the music slightly more grounded, but the result still simply heavenly. A closing section that included a lifting version of “Eyeoneye” had a little bit of something for everyone sitting silently in the pews. The possibilities were infinite, but the music was real. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(Andrew Bird also plays Riverside Church tonight.)

 

 

 

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A Voice in the Dark

January 26th, 2012

Cass McCombs – The Bowery Ballroom – January 25, 2012


The band played in relative darkness, with a screen projecting shimmering gold dots providing the only light onstage. And, against the background, they looked like backlit shadows. The figures created sound, but their performance couldn’t be seen—all the better for Cass McCombs. The reportedly elusive singer-songwriter delivered his literal and personal lyrics with as much anonymity as possible.

Camera flashes provided brief glimpses of the frontman, but on the whole, his voice came from a silhouette. He sang about creatures and passwords written on sticky notes similar to Charlie delivering secrets to his angels. The audience listened attentively for instruction and information. And, for his part, McCombs was a purveyor of both.

During such upbeat numbers as the opener, “Love Thine Enemy,” McCombs tossed off aphorisms and advice. But the tone shifted mostly to midtempo country and folk. The comfortably laid-back sound, pervasive in the current indie-music scene, sounded effortless coming from McCombs and company. It is, after all, his signature. So when they finished with the 2011 lauded single “County Line” and left the stage, the lights immediately came back on. No needs to hide once you’ve left the stage. —Jared Levy

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Cass McCombs Plays The Bowery Ballroom Tomorrow Night

January 24th, 2012


Singer-songwriter Cass McCombs’ calling card is his distinctive voice, both lyrically and aurally. Prior to actually releasing any music, his dark, funny stories earned him a slot touring with Palace (a Will Oldham—of Bonnie “Prince” Billy fame—band) and the Oxes, which eventually led to McCombs putting out his debut EP, Not the Way, in 2002. Two LPs, and stints in the Pacific Northwest, England and Baltimore, followed before he found himself on the road with Modest Mouse. Not one to rest on his laurels, McCombs (above, doing “Prima Donna” at last year’s SXSW) released not one but two well-received albums last year, Wits End and Humor Risk. And with a pair of new discs to promote, he plays The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night.

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Cass McCombs Hits The Bowery Ballroom Tomorrow

July 8th, 2010


Cass McCombs is a California kid who eventually made his way to the East Coast. Although he spent quite a bit of time traveling the country, at one point the talented singer-songwriter settled in Baltimore and recorded his debut EP, Not the Way, released in 2002. Since then, he’s headed back to his home state and has put out four LPs of funny, poppy and dark music—the most recent of which, Catacombs, came out last year. And now Cass McCombs (above, playing “That’s That” on KCRW), along with Lightspeed Champion and Melanie Moser & the Eleventh Hour Band, comes to The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night.