Cass McCombs Chop Suey Seattle, March 26, 2019

Break it down, get us fired up. Hell yeah we got fired up last night at Chop Suey in Capitol Hill in Seattle. Back in the US, back to a crowd more colorful, more varied, more down home American.

Karen and Garrett, my friends from San Francisco who recently relocated to Seattle, accompanied me last night and they brought the enthusiasm, first falling in love with Sam Evian’s tunes and then later, facilitating the CM love when we unwittingly got caught in the very back of the room (hey, the view was good). The place was packed. The venue itself has a low ceiling and a feeling of intimacy with performer and audience, a good bar with Seattle Dry Cider on tap, and a kitchen that serves sandwiches and burgers (in this case by a speed goth).

In our case, the back was a place from which to better survey the crowd, their pluck, a better place from which to project cheers and whoops and to reflect energy back to the front. The other guys in the back loved it too. People kept yelling “THANK YOU” and “I LOVE YOU” at Cass and it was pretty much true for all of us. Cass was smiling, his body language was authoritative and playful and he would lean sideways this way or that, delivering his unwavering falsettos with squinted conviction.

Last night Sam Evian again joined Cass and the band for a run of several songs, starting with What Isn’t Nature (some of the pics are of that number), but the long faced drummer from Sam’s band did not drum for CM last night. Cass himself looked good, good haircut holding up, and his white shirt was emblazoned with a Pilot logo, giving credence to his own truck stop persona—life on the road as a musician sometimes equals wearing Pilot t-shirts out of necessity like any normal long-haul trucker.

I took away many truths last night, the two primary truths being 1) there is no wrong way if you are harnessing your own talented energy, luxuriating in it, and giving it back to the world in sheer joy—and that’s what I’m trying to do with my life, mostly through rare books and archives; and 2) Cass uses his voice as an instrument just as much as he uses the guitar. On this tour, in particular, his vocals are no longer simply a component that rounds out the melody, they are no longer solely the deliverer of a message (even though yes, he’s a poet and an auteur): his vocals have transformed to being the only ticket out of the chaos—the only ticket to ride out the meandering euphony and find the mainline back to the selfhood and the exclamation of the human spirit.

Set list

  • Sleeping Volacanoes

  • Bum Bum Bum

  • The Great Pixley Train Robbery

  • Estrella

  • What Isn’t Nature (this is off A and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play it live, so amazing. He sounds exactly the same as he does on the recording which was put out in 2003. I love the early stuff so much. I’ll definitely be listening to A on my drive to Portland today)

  • Laughter is the Best Medicine (epic jam session)

  • Sidewalk Bop After Suicide

  • Absentee (again, a trio with Sam Evian and Frank LoCrasto)

  • American Canyon Sutra (the turning point according to Garrett, who is not that into jam music. It was at this point Cass took off his satin white smoking jacket and according to Garrett the music changed)

  • I Followed the River South to What

  • Morning Star

  • Big Wheel (my favorite jam session of the night)

  • Brighter

  • Rounder (but really this jam session was my favorite because I just wanted it to keep going on forever. By this point I had weaseled my way back up to the front of the dance floor and was grooving)


  • Rancid Girl