Live Review: Cass McCombs, Twerps

12 December 2016 | 2:04 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"It's all wonderfully melancholic."

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The Twerps lads are all dressed up and wearing collars to perform at this ritzy venue (if a denim jacket collar counts?), while guitarist/vocalist Jules McFarlane sports a black skivvy. The local band's other guitarist/vocalist Marty Frawley dobs on his bandmate, drummer Alex Macfarlane, who apparently wondered aloud why Alien Ant Farm wasn't playing for their entrance. Frawley's guitar work immediately dazzles. Twerps have an endearing presence and you can tell by their verbal and nonverbal communication that they're the best of mates. The band's alternating male/female lead vocals adds interest and we're charmed by the quartet.

With the venue's classic black curtain backdrop in place, Cass McCombs and co enter the stage space to soothe our troubled souls. Keyboard melodies often mirror McCombs' guitar lines (see: Bum Bum Bum) and Morning Star's opening line, "Leave your husband and come with me," makes an intriguing entry point for this jaunty number. Big Wheel boasts fluid, sliding bass lines and drum patterns that replicate rapid gunfire. A tricky time signature opens The Burning Of The Temple, 2012, which the excellent musicians assembled on stage obviously relish. "When you're crying in the shadow of love" - McCombs lyrics are always worthy of your full attention. A piano interlude thrills and then drummer Otto Hauser appears delighted by this song's triple-false finish.

To achieve some of the nuances in these live arrangements, all musicians turn to face McCombs, watching him intently; Hauser smiling at McCombs from beneath a cymbal. McCombs often points toward individual band members, giving them his full permission to pull focus. Hauser juggles a shaker while drumming with the other stick and Dan Horne's bass jams are always inventive. McCombs' conversational delivery of Cry shines the spotlight on quirky phrases such as, "I can't do nothing for you, can't you see I have no feet?" We silently process Everything Has To Be Just-So, which lists racial misconceptions. County Line enchants with its "woah-woah-woah-woah-woah" refrain, and we could jive in our seats to the funky Run Sister Run all night.    

Some audience members (stupidly) flee before the encore. We score Brighter!, which honours the late actress Karen Black (who originally sang this song). "Can you turn the lights down? They're bugging me," McCombs instructs, before closing with I'm A Shoe. It's all wonderfully melancholic, but the intermittent "whoops" and enthusiastic applause throughout the evening suggest this is our collective mood of choice.   

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