Review of their gig in Whelan's, Dublin, July 12th 2000
If first impressions are anything to go by, then Cassa is definitely a striking band. In fact the first member onstage is better known for his 'day' job striking, thumping and tapping his drums while having an optimum view of Glen Hansard's backside. Next, as the skipping CD playing on the sound system finally settled on 'Foxy Lady', two female band members took the stage carrying keyboards and bass. The latter's impeccable colour coordination was immediately to be commended a black bass and blouse as well as matching pink lead cord and skirt.
The keyboardist / guitarist / singer's blue rag-doll peasant dress proved to be highly appropriate as when she was not playing an instrument her arms were constantly failing around and about her person like a Raggedy-Ann doll on puppet strings. All this served to emphasize her vocals, which would be considered rather floaty and spacey if it wasn't for her penchant of half-swallowing, half-squeaking her way up to the many high notes. She somehow managed to combine absolute pleading with the spitfire of Alanis you-know-who and the occasional Bjorkism. Definitely a style that has to grow on you but she served as a perfect vocal point for the band. In fact the above mentioned three members maintained the spotlight to the extent that it was easy to miss the male guitar player and the guy tweaking and turning knobs who slipped into the stage-left and stage-right shadows almost to be forgotten it might have helped keep the latter's furry-hatted head from sweating under the stage lights.
After the first visual impression, the first aural impression was a bit of a letdown. Called 'Batman' the song was easily their weakest and the low point of the evening. Of course they soon set it right and it proceeded uphill as a chunkier beat drew you into 'Thrashy Dreams.' Though a very muddy sounding bass sound marred the start of one song, the rhythm section were the musical stars of the evening and included the utilization of excellent syncopated bass-drum work. A shame that what was termed 'New Song' on the set list started with a basic, very dull looped beat totally lacking in feel that should have never entered into the picture. The live guy with the drumsticks is there for a reason.
The original highlights came on 'Indian Sky' and 'Circus' (utilizing the set list again here) where the rhythm section and the vocals hit their peaks simultaneously. A couple of rappers invited by the band never showed up creating in the process the absolute highlight of the evening. The cover of the Roots/Erykah Badu song 'You Got Me' was pushed to the encore as the band desperately inquired about a rapper in the house. An American from Philly finally obliged and his original ramblings about Dublin and the States combined to great effect with singer Catherine's unique vocal interpretations. The band mentioned that they were "called Cassa, at least for the moment." It's hard to figure out if the band is just a temporary musical exploration/experiment for the band or not. They have enough uniqueness in their style to warrant further meanderings if the musicians so choose.