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Cass McCombs 

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Don't mistake Cass McCombs' increasingly dour musical turns for a man chasing away demons. "I like the idea of living with your demons — drinking with your demons, having a party with your demons," the 34-year-old Californian told me in October during an interview for a story about his twin 2011 releases, Wit's End and Humor Risk (Domino). It was one of the few forthright moments during an often uncomfortably awkward half-hour phone conversation. Low-spoken and aloof, McCombs doesn't do much press, mostly letting his art speak for itself (a perfectly reasonable proposition). When he does talk to writers, he prefers it be through the mail and/or with women (a more questionable request, particularly when laid out by a hired publicist). Such is the tricky terrain navigated by McCombs' six studio albums: soulfully sung stories, both objectively oblique and painfully personal, that hide slippery syntax ("California makes me sick/ Like trying with a rattlesnake your teeth to pick") and simply wry lines ("Where'd you learn to smoke?/ 'Cause you're doing it all wrong") inside outre folktales of everyday America. Just don't ask him to expound upon them. Frank Fairfield opens. Tickets $10. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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