Cass McCombs

SXSW Live Shots

SXSW Live Shots
Photo By Gary Miller

Cass McCombs

La Zona Rosa, Wednesday, March 17 It's OK to not rock. Yo La Tengo can not rock all day and still tear it up. What's not OK is to be a monotonous bore. And Cass McCombs, sorry, he was a monotonous bore. Baltimore's McCombs, who on disc sound like the spawn of Daniel Johnston and Lanois, onstage comes across as a cross-pollination of Morrissey and Ron Sexsmith. As for what he looks like, who knows? If he hadn't had to sing into a microphone, he would've spent the entire set with his back to the audience. Initially, he was standing with his left shoulder to the modest crowd, singing sideways; yet as the set progressed, the mic somehow worked its way further around, and he kept turning further away. By "AIDS in Africa," toward the end of the set, McCombs settled into literally turning his back to the audience. It makes some sense, though, as the drummer was the only member of the band worth watching. He was rocking. Everyone else was not. It's a bummer, because as a band they've got some pieces, and in the rare moments when they put it together, it congeals into a Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement on a Vicodin drip. Not rock, but nice. Unfortunately, those moments were rare. Rock & roll isn't a beauty contest. Never has been. Mick Jagger really is one ugly motherfucker. But, damn, if you don't want to engage your audience, at least acknowledge them. If not, why show up? Even the shoegazers of the mid-Nineties faced the folks who came to see them. The word that comes to mind is "immature." Not immature in the sense of childish, but McCombs is young and obviously not ready for prime time.

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