Concert review: Night Beds (with Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine) awaken emotions at Off Broadway, Monday, February 11
St. Louis’ Cassie Morgan knelt before her guitar and tuned up. Her curly mane followed the slope of her shoulder and fell behind her head as she stood up and began an opening set for Nashville, Tenn. act Night Beds.
Beth Bombara — aka the Lone Pine of Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine — stood to the songwriter’s right with toms in hand and a glockenspiel that separated her from the crowd that eventually grew to over 75 people. An excited chatter percolated throughout patrons and muffled Morgan’s soft delivery. Her foreboding tales of love gone awry are crafted for more placid crowds. Unfortunately, the audience at Off Broadway appeared oblivious to Morgan’s craft and talked audibly amongst themselves.
As Morgan strummed her guitar and sang with an inflection that echoed macabre-folk icon Neko Case, Bombara displayed an impressive musicality. In addition to the glockenspiel, Bombara played a harmonium, tambourine, maraca and a crystal wine glass: She slid her finger over the glass’s rim and made a sound reminiscent of a Theremin.
The crowd’s attention may have been diverted from Morgan and the Lonely Pine due to headliner Night Beds. They resolved to silence once Winston Yellen and company came upon the stage. He sported three touring musicians, two from St. Louis. Although Yellen neglected to introduce them, it could be inferred by their reactions to the crowd’s shouts, and the number of people who flocked to them post-show, that drummer Taylor and guitarist Caleb call St. Louis home.
Yellen opened his set with “Faithful Heights,” an a cappella joint that hushed the crowd and revealed Yellen’s voice to be more mature live than recorded on “Country Sleep.” His vocals escaped the speakers with a sonic boom’s start and brick walls’ solidarity. Yellen and his compositions have a potent presence that brimmed with emotionally curated confessions. I doubt anyone would have batted an eye if he yanked the amp from underneath his lap steel guitarist, sat down and read from his diary.
Perhaps Yellen’s pinched countenance gave him the visage of Internet meme sensation Grumpy Cat, but something about Yellen clearly reeked of moodiness. He castigated an inebriated audience member who spoke to his guitar tech/brother; the aggressive tone caused a palpable tremor of discomfort through the crowd. When he walked into the audience during the band’s last number, he steered an audience member with his head in the way of domed-head pachycephalosaurs. His previous actions made me think he was gearing up to crack the guy in the face. He did, however, show several moments of joy. Once, out of the dark, he patted a patron on the shoulder and had a playful exchange with St. Louis musician Ryan Carpenter who, from the balcony, thanked Yellen graciously for coming to St. Louis.
In contrast, Yellen’s drummer had a smile plastered to his face throughout the set. He was incandescent during “Hope Springs” and embellished his movements generously, often drumming akimbo as his limbs created jangled angles. His jovial demeanor contrasted during Yellen’s melancholic set. Even when he busted his kick pedal he never ceased to be ebullient: he flung the broken bit aside with the flair of a tipsy troublemaker.
Despite the odd conflation of personalities on stage, Night Beds played an impeccable set. They played clean, and the songs’ collisions sounded like interludes rather than bridges from chorus to chorus. They played unrushed, yet Yellen’s compositions leaned into one another and created a fleet set.
The crowd chanted “One more song!” when Night Beds closed up shop. Despite their pleas, there was no encore.