live interlude – cass mccombs in sydney

okay, so this has ceased to be a “500 consecutive days” project. my nights are being increasingly consumed by tiredness and tasks associated with keeping things living around me in this heat. but don’t worry, autumn is just around the corner (at least, i’m trying to convince myself of the fact that such a corner exists, and it cannot be more than a few steps away). the doors and windows will close, the sun will drop in the sky and the blanket will again cover my lap. intensity here shall increase (there’s an equation in it, i’m sure).

and in a musical break, i caught the bus to sydney yesterday to see cass mccombs perform in a sideshow headline gig from the st jeromes laneway festival. a notable aside was the location, the basement at the oxford art factory, which was shared with another part of the underground in which some reggae-infused funk was being enjoyed by another crowd altogether. the location, relative to my digs for the night (a tiny hotel room with no windows = cell?), also entailed navigating central sydney backstreets round midnight. it was quieter than i expected.

his band members seemed so remarkably familiar (and distinctly american looking), as though i must have seen them perform that closely before (not in video form, is what i mean – in the flesh, right before my eyes). i felt like the other guitarist glanced at me more than once, visible between the shoulders of two taller hipsters in front of me and about five people deep. i know it’s ridiculous, but it was like there was some mutual recognition. the bassist – who, might i say, was one of the most amazing i’ve seen live – looked hilariously stoned and off with the fairies. so happy to say that, whatever was going on there, it must have enhanced his proficiency. i also loved studying the drummer, watching variably his attention on his bandmates and, occasionally, the moments where he seemed to be so uplifted by what he was playing that his face broke into almost laughter.

and of course, cass himself. sufficiently focussed to ensure that each song happened in a way that seemed intentional, but not contrived or plotted. he, too, watched his bandmates as they performed particular passages in songs – not to check whether they were doing it right, but to understand those contributions of a being wholly removed from his own self. that interplay was perhaps the most ideal i’ve witnessed.

i won’t go into the detail of the songs performed, except to say they seemed too few or short, but were not (due to extension), and that the encore consisted solely of county line performed even slower than any of his recorded music (i count in this to every man his chimera). three people i had not seen in the crowd previously had somehow made their way to the front and were ostensibly heckling throughout the song – laughing, talking, making a scene. someone behind them swore and told them it was her favourite song. they settled for the remainder, in a sense, until the band left the stage at the conclusion and were (perhaps unknowingly) farewelled with a middle finger by the prime heckler.

normally that would have made me so angry as to confront them, swear, and fuck up the whole thing myself. everyone, including the band, somehow managed to excise them from existence for that brief period – perhaps all of us knowing we would never have to encounter the dick heads again in our lives, and the brilliance of what was happening in spite of them completely mollified the effect they had. because that’s what it was about – they couldn’t detract from what we’d all already witnessed and absorbed. and we know we’ll see these guys again without them.

as i sat this morning eating my vegan brekkie in glebe while reading the new philosopher, i was graced with table neighbours – two mid-20s women – talking about laneway (as well as the big day out and falls festivals). they thought that the 40 year old attendees at laneway were “cute”, as though they were a novelty. it came near something i’ve possibly touched on here – a reality that music being made post-2010 doesn’t really belong to those of us over the age of about 30. the sands shift – the dunes bank up in new places. i don’t feel excluded, because i know what i like, and i know what i’m uncomfortable about liking these days. for me, loving music was never about inclusion or exclusion. but to hear that expressed by the people sitting at the other end of the time scale gave me new perspective.

in reality, i haven’t read a single thing about cass from the laneway reviews so far, which leads me to conclude that few of the attendees had any clue who he was (such as these women), or saw his simple brilliance at work. they still like what they’re told to like, by radio, charts, social media and their peers.

think for yourselves, girls (and boys). it’s the most liberating action on earth.

[this is the exact band below, as they performed a couple of weeks ago]


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