Cass McCombs Moe's Alley Santa Cruz April 4, 2019

Moe’s Alley is a small, intimate venue in Santa Cruz made even more intimate with the sleepy town vibe of Commercial Street after dark on a weeknight. Santa Cruz may have been my favorite of all six shows I went to despite my feelings of extreme overstimulation leading up to the show. Fortunately the fellow concert goers were hella chill and friendly, the sets were on point, and both bands seemed comfortable and happy at their height. Thursday night was the zenith of the tour, even though it was the penultimate night. Sam Evian acknowledged as much during the opening set, saying something along the lines of goodbye one night early.

At the beginning of the night, a nice couple invited me to join them at their table, where we talked about music, family, life, etc., and I found out they were originally from Montana and will be relocating somewhere in the Pacific Northwest after their interim in California is complete. They were so nice and seemed fascinated by what I was doing. We seemed to click but I left them when Sam Evian started playing to head to the floor. Julie and Dave, if you’re reading this, get in touch with me! Sorry I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye at the end of the show.

That warmth primed me for a great night. Those of us standing closest to the stage were still a bit standoffish and Sam invited us to move closer. We all must have felt uncomfortable crowding the band because the front of the stage is literally within arms reach of peeps on stage. However that act secured my spot in the very front for the remainder of the show, made even more possible by the friendship I sparked with a fellow show goer that seemed over the top enthusiastic. During break between the two bands, we exchanged stories and I discovered this guy is probably an even bigger Cass McCombs fan than myself! “I’ve seen Cass play 14 times,” Patrick proudly proclaimed. You can bet we bro-ed down hardcore over our favorite albums, the setlist, etc. Patrick caught the Sacramento show, and was planning on going to San Francisco the following night. I informed him of my mini tag along on most of the west coast tour dates, which he obviously thought was hella sick. I held his spot while he got us drinks and he held my spot when I stepped out for a break. Toward the end of Cass’s set we both started doing the annoying thing where we yelled out the songs we wanted him to play. “Sister Spouse!!!” Patrick kept yelling, then “Nature!” for me. When Cass and the band first came on stage, we caught a glimpse of the setlist, and indeed “My Sister My Spouse” and “What Isn’t Nature” were both on the list, but at some point in the middle Patrick yelled out, “Sister Spouse!!” and Cass responded, “We cut that one,” and I was like, “He’s fucking with you, mofo,” but he wasn’t: they did indeed cut Sister Spouse and Nature, but they added “Dreams Come True Girl” instead, which is definitely one of the cult favorites. Patrick said that at the Sacramento show there was a very drunk girl who kept heckling them to play “Dreams Comes True Girl” and at some point Cass kinda loss his patience and shut her down, which Patrick indicated was a little uncomfortable. Interestingly, they saved “Sleeping Volcanoes” for the last song before the encore, which was again Rancid Girl, and before “Sleeping Volancoes” they did “Rounder,” which I grooved out hard on. You can actually see my dang head bobbing all around in this video.

The crowd was exceedingly chill and forgiving, while Patrick, myself, some hippie chick, and these other younger girlies were holding it down in front of the stage. Every once in while one of us would yell something that seemed to make Cass smile and I felt like he was at his best of being in his element as a “entertainer” in that venue on that night—the night of the new moon, an auspicious sign. Again, I barely took any photos, and part was in due to the way the crowd was not into their phones, reminiscent of Vancouver. My notes were remarkably lacking as well, mostly noting that Dan’s role on the bass is integral to Estrella, and “I got the bass on Chinese Medicine,” which was “fucking bliss.” I did manage to get a couple audio clips recorded. The first is of the opening music they played on the PA before Sam’s band started—it was the same music that was played before the show in LA which made me realize not only did Cass or someone on his team pick it, but it must have been played at all the venues before the show—I only arrived early enough in LA and Santa Cruz to catch it. The second thing is, I need to know what this strangely unsettling oriental music is!!

The second recording is of American Canyon Sutra as heard from the patio—I am not sure what moved me to make this recording but whoop here it is.

Patrick and I were both whipped into a frenzy by the end of the show. Once the band exited, I hoisted him onto the stage and he grabbed setlists for both of us!! Then we ended up hanging out by the merch booth gushing about the show, and thanks to Patrick’s outgoing personality we ended up talking to all the members of Sam Evian’s band except the second guitarist. What nice guys!! When I told Sam about all of their shows I had been to, his face lit up and he seemed to interested and pleased that someone would do something like that. After chatting with them all for a while, sending them good vibes for the show the next night, and shaking hands, we exchanged greetings with “See you tomorrow,” which didn’t end up happening, but in retrospect it was our way of hermetically sealing the connection forged that night.

After I got my stuff from the merch booths, we headed outside and even though Cass was on stage breaking down the equipment, I opted to continue on. Patrick tried me to get Cass to sign my album, but I was like, “He’s not into that stuff,” and Patrick had to concede that Cass refused him signing an album one time. My horoscope for that day, 4-4-19, said not to hold back when something was in reach. I am not sure if I held back or didn’t held back, but the evening was pretty perfect.