Cass McCombs & Lower Dens @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg, 7/21/11
If I said there was a weird vibe at the Cass McCombs show Thursday night at The Music Hall of Williamsburg I’d might be understating the fact. The show began with a set from Lower Dens whose ethereal sounds led by Jana Hunter’s deep vocals seemed right at home with the crowd but the tone changed as Cass and crew hit the stage even amid a packed house of adoring fans. McCombs opted for darkness throughout his set with no stage lights aside from backlighting derived from light boards against the rear of the stage which resembled Modrianesque honeycomb shapes which occasionally fluttered as they blinked.
Playing in darkness seemed to fit McCombs mellow musical style but for some reason things just did not jive as the band played some of their notable songs such as “Dreams Come True Girl” and “County Line.” The band’s sound wasn’t hitting the mark and their playing seemed almost confrontational at times as McCombs continually asked for his vocals to be increased even though they were already painfully loud, additionally the occasional Ray Manzarek vs. Nirvana keyboard solos seemed downright angry. A good portion of the crowd tried hard to buy-in to McCombs vision as rolling “shh”ing erupted through the crowd in-between songs but it became almost laughable at times. By the time McCombs hour-long set concluded without an encore the audience was already pouring out into the sweltering heat of the night wondering why the band seemed to hate them.