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Cass McCombs – Friday, February 3 – Hi-Dive – Denver

And they say that social media is full of useless blabber, filled with cupcake-eating updates from so-and-so. From the snowy road this past Friday, Cass McCombs’ keyboardist, Will Canzoneri, posted this to the band’s Facebook page, “We’re on our way, coming down 76. Roads ain’t so bad. If we make it, we’re playing.”

They did make it, and hell yes, they played. With more tenacity than a postman’s oath, the men from Cass McCombs drove through sleet and snow to arrive at the Hi-Dive, all set to perform on a cold, blizzard-filled Friday night in Denver.

Frank Fairfield was warming up the crowd quite nicely when Julie and I arrived, styled and singing as if he just walked off the set of the new Portlandia sketch, “Dream of the 1890s” that aired that night. Later I went looking to see if he was selling snake oil at the merch table, but alas, there was only Victrola 7”s.

McCombs and company, including Canzoneri, Daniel Iead on guitar, Rob Barbato on bass, and Dan Allaire on drums, made their way to the set. “Love Thine Enemy,” appeared towards the beginning of the set, resonating with the audience as heads moved in recognition of the rhythm.


In a live setting, the more subdued “Buried Alive” from Wit’s End was magnified into a more raucous tune, bellowing a determination to stay alive versus giving one self up for dead. Another from the album was “County Line,” which was also amped up with guitars, piano, and accompaniment from both band members and fans from the audience who joined in on the “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.”

At times Canzoneri really took the lead on keyboards, where the guitars and drums played back up, shifting the tonality and mood of the music. And towards the end, the band as a whole begged for a bit a lighter action (no, not fucking cell phones with a lighter app, the real kind that burns your fingers) as they integrated doses of classic rock into the mix with a wry smile, showing that although McCombs is known more for serenades, there’s also another side that comes out on stage, one that sweats through a 24-hour shadow scruff.

After the show, hitting the van to grab more vinyl for hungry fans, the McCombs crew was off again, bound for Salt Lake City. We hope to have them in Denver once more when the weather’s a bit warmer…so they can play more than just one song off Humor Risk (hint, hint).


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