Cass McCombs/Acrylics @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 11/9/09

Few rooms offer what Bowery does in terms of acoustics; dial your levels right onstage and the Ballroom’s soundsystem and resonant effects will do the rest. With Cass McCombs’s fourth LP, the endlessly repeatable Catacombs, the traveling troubadour has never been quite so forthright with his lyrical content: he’s singing about what’s on his mind, and what’s on his mind is mostly what’s in his heart. So Bowery was the right room for this late-support show of his latest LP, where the bed of Korg keys and gently swelling pedal steel guitars could color, but never color over, those sweet Catacombs couplets. At times the locomotive rumble and dustier trappings of his writing can feel like paging through a book of faded photographs, which made the coat rack casually hanging out stage right a perfect prop; the checkered, flickering light rig in back was a curveball, but a good spin for a songwriter that’s been tough to pin down over the years. (These weren’t all new songs, after all, the setlist dating back all the way to his debut EP Not The Way’s title track.)

Opening were Acrylics, who we’ve seen twice with a drummer (opening for Besnard Lakes at Mercury, again at the Terrible Records showcase during CMJ) — and after last night, once without. Going without drums shouldn’t be a permanent shift, and I don’t imagine it was, but it offered a chance to hone in on what makes the band’s best songs (“All Of The Fire” and “Vertigo” if you’re tracking) tick: the uncluttered and unabashedly ’70s radio-pop melodies, the occasional harmony, the voice of Molly Shea. The band’s Chris Taylor-produced debut EP All Of The Fire is out now. Download the title track here, and have a pass at these photos by Jessica Amaya. (The early opener was Bad Girlfriends, a band helmed by Cass’s touring bassist; she wore red for the early set, black leggings for the late.)