18

THURSDAY

Open-mike night at the SoHo coffee shop in Dupont Circle is one of the most depressing things this city offers up. There’s maudlin poetry read by middle-aged ladies fresh from the workshop. There’s the singer-songwriter who manages to screw every note in every one of her songs. It all has the feel of a 3 a.m. encounter with a Summer’s Eve product: that queasy mix of tiredness, smoke, and intrusive floral fragrance. This is how hard it is to be a singer-songwriter. You not only have to put up with the comparisons to Dylan, Neil Young, or Joni Mitchell (for the ladies), but you have to play in miserable places. And sit and listen to people moan about (real topics here from real past events): vagina lips, the desire to be a transsexual lesbian, and, of course, John Ashcroft. Cass McCombs avoids all lyrical clichés in favor of inscrutable puzzles with a relaxed-fit voice and a set of interesting arrangements that the entire Drag City family would kill for. He performs with the Sex at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat’s Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $7. (202) 667-7960. (Jason Cherkis)