Last Night Rocker Stalker said…: CMJ 2010 WEEK RECAP

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

This year’s CMJ Music Marathon was indeed a marathon. Although the festival technically ran from October 19-23, many bands extended the extravaganza through the weekend. The preparation for CMJ was many-fold. Not only did I take on the fun task of writing up more than a dozen bands beforehand, putting together a jam-packed (haha literally) schedule, and  running around to hear all the music my eardrums could handle, I decided to add my own showcase to the mix…more on that later. To say the least, I rocker-stalked ‘til I dropped. 

Tuesday morning arrived, and I leapt out of bed like it was the first day of school, except I was less afraid of being faced with grade-grubbers and disciplinarians. I did fear, however, that I would face some unfortunate bands in the coming days, and as a disclaimer, I WILL assert my right to free speech in this blog about said bands. Anyway, I scurried off from Brooklyn to Washington Square Park, the CMJ headquarters for the week, where I picked up my badge, CMJ “Bible,” and a snazzy pinstriped goodie bag full of free music, flyers, and my favorite, YouTube socks! I’m lazy at times, so  I managed to hit only one panel on the rise of American hardcore, where I ran into Josh Weinstein of decibel.!  Not a shocker! But, even more despicable than my poor attendance, I had to bail early to catch an early show at Arlene’s Grocery. I arrived at the Grocery for Penrose, a band of three brothers who played good ol’ rock ‘n roll that leaned heavily on the blues, very heavily. My first reaction to discovering the singer/guitarist/keyboardist, bassist, and drummer were all related was, “That’s convenient!” but I also concluded that, “These guys aren’t too bad. These blues brothers have potential!” Next up was Midnight Spin, who I got to know through the Deli’s assignment back in April for the “Best of NYC” issue. Their interview and gregariousness struck a good chord in me, and I love seeing a band that radiates fun.  On my way out, I encountered two of the boys of Blackbells who convinced me to stay for some friends of theirs, The Dance Party from LA. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood, but I didn’t really feel like it was that much of a dance party. As a result, I escaped to The Living Room. I was faced with an obstacle, though. Just a few days before CMJ, I misplaced my wallet, and therefore was living on a college ID for entrance into venues. The bouncer at The Living Room, however, gave me a hard time about not having a driver’s license, ending in a screaming fest outside the venue.  Leaving in a huff, I walked to Le Poisson Rouge for the New Zealand Showcase, hoping to run into Flight of the Conchords. Just kidding. I was there for Street Chant and Ruby Frost. Street Chant was a trio of youngsters, two girls and a boy, who produced some great, grungy aggressive rock. While Ruby Frost was another “sheila”-fronted band, she and her three kiwis were much more poppy and glittery. After my international stint, I headed back to more familiar musical territory at Bowery Electric. Upon arrival, The Eastern Sea from Austin were preparing to play. Their upbeat, folksy rock demeanor was a nice change of style and pace. Following them were resident rockers, Reckless Sons, for their first of three CMJ shows, who know that if you’ve got it, you flaunt it. Another Austin band, The Frontier Brothers were next, and lead singer/guitarist Marshall “Galactic” made a statement with sequined suspenders, and along with the rest of the band who impressed with their sparkling energy. Back to NY bands, Reckless Sons hit the beautifully lit stage, embodying the idiom, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”The Shake followed with a spirited and solid series of songs, and Lily and the Parlour Tricks impressed with tri-part harmonies and doo-wop beats.  The crowd inched closer to the stage and sweat to closers, Black Taxi’s set away, who are known around town for their particularly expert dance-rock formulations. Photos of day 1!

The second day, but I made an early journey to the Lower East Side to host my “Se7end Deadly Bands Showcase” at Arlene’s Grocery. My heart was pounding with excitement and anxiety, a sensation amplified by an over-consumption of caffeine. Reality struck when The Courtesy Tier walked in, ready to sound check. Breathing deeply, and with the help of my mom’s company and the first band’s optimism, I got the show on the road, right on time. Pleased that there were a dozen or so people at 1:30 in the afternoon, my nervousness started to subside as The Courtesy Tier filled the room with their haunting, bluesy rock cadence. It’s always hard to believe that two people can create such a powerful sound, but the following duo, decibel., reaffirmed the observation, this time, with a more experimental edge and aggressive spirit. My Austin amigos, The Frontier Brothers, again brightened up the afternoon with their lively   demeanor;  people were mesmerized by Brett Moses’s bouncing jazzercise moves while playing keys and singing. Up next, Black Taxi impressed as usual, but even more spectacular was their “set by request.” I yelled out song names, a couple of my favorites, “Shoeshine” and “Be My Friend,” got played, but some of my other suggestions were shot down by Ezra Huleatt (vocals, keys, trumpet, etc.) who joked, “Something we’ve played in the last two years!”  Blackbells took the stage next, showcasing their retro-rock with an alternative and psychedelic twist, and electro-pop quintet AM to AM took the sound of the afternoon in yet another genre direction. Closing the afternoon, power rock trio, Lights Resolve, attracted a huge crowd to Arlene’s, ripping through several new songs that will be on their first, full record due out in January (I can’t wait!)  in addition to “oldies” from their first three EP’s.  Long story short, I hadn’t smiled that hard in a long time. The day had ended in a success, and I felt like the luckiest lady around. THANK YOU to everyone who played and attended! After, I headed to Black Taxi’s second gig of the day, at Gallery Bar, which was exactly how I imagined it: a rectangular, white-walled room with the band set up in the center with a simple PA system, and of course, a bar. The short but sweet set was again by request and up close and personal. Did I mention how much I love that band? I hit Rockwood Music Hall for Deadbeat Darling but left, fed up with how packed the venue was, and found my way to the Studio at Webster hall for BRAHMS. DJ trio with a few keyboards and a guitar, they were perfect for an underground dance party but not for my exhausted state at 1AM. Perhaps, I need to revisit the electro-trio? Day 2 photos!


The third day, I rose again to hit the shows, this time staying closer to home. Afternoon bands at Spike Hill, Williamsburg included female-fronted Vagina Panther (Don’t ask…), The Gay Blades, and The Shake. The sound at Spike Hill can be hit or miss, and for The Gay Blades, unfortunately, it was a miss. I had seen these guys before, and their new album, Savages, is superb, so I was a bit disappointed about the overwhelming reverb that drowned out the vocals. Following the trio, The Shake restored sound stability, luring people back toward the stage for a solid set, highlighting a couple new tunes. The Shake are currently preparing for several shows, “The Shakedown” at The Red Door, beginning November 13. After a quick bite at Spike Hill, I went down the road to Public Assembly’ “back room” where experimental but catching Ava Luna was performing. A mix of three female vocalist, a male singer/guitarist, a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer, Ava Luna definitely epitomized indie Brooklyn bands with their avant-garde…everything. Hopping over to Manhattan, I stopped by The National Underground to see decibel.  quake the downstairs cave of a venue, and bluesy-rockers, Hollis Brown,  upstairs. Across the street, a line was already forming an hour beforehand outside Rockwood Music Hall’s exquisite Stage 2 for Black Taxi’s show number four.  I was planning to go to Ace of Clubs where one of my other prized bands, Lights Resolve, was appearing, but I wasn’t so sure about the exact set time. Quickly texting LR’s singer, Matt Reich, I was informed that they were setting up and I had ten minutes to get there.  As Black Taxi played the last notes of “Ticket,” I sprinted to the next venue, arriving just in time as the trio deafened listeners with superb tunes that will make up the band’s 2011, first full-length record, Feel You’re Different. Third day in pics

Day four, I was dragging, but Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers at the lovely Knitting Factory in Brooklyn got me back on track. Shilpa, although petite, has the voice of a giant, growling and screaming amidst her exotic vocals and furious harmonium pressing. Her happy hookers matched Shilpa’s dynamic energy, blasting through songs available on the band’s freshly printed 7” ! After a short stint in Williamsburg, I was back in the city for a show at Crash Mansion hosted by ReThink Pop Music. I happened to arrive right as Penrose were setting up, and when they began their set, I was hit with a wall of distorted loudness, which put a damper on their initial appeal at Arlene’s Grocery a couple days prior.  After the trio, reliably rocking Reckless Sons took the stage, bringing back some hope for the Mansion’s notorious acoustics (I guess it was a common theme for this year’s CMJ.). I think my favorite newer song is “Whipping Boy.” Subsequently, Miniboone appeared onstage to delight with bouncy riffs and high-flying spirit.  Heading back toward my neighborhood, in an overcrowded vehicle, I passed through Williamsburg’s Cameo Gallery to see international rockers, Hypernova, New Yorkers via Tehran, and one of my favorites, vintage-inspired heavy rock trio, The London Souls.  Day 4

The official final day of CMJ was as packed any other day. I collaborated with The Shake crew to cheer on some fellow NYC bands beginning  at  the Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, where Apollo Run impressed with piano driven melodies, elaborate bass orchestrations, and a variety of catching beats, all performed while delivering tri-part, awe-inspiring  harmonies. Further east on Houston, another trio, New Madrid, took the lounge out of Parkside Lounge with fiery and sultry, self-proclaimed “bilingual rock,” the two languages being English and Spanish. Out the door and off to The Studio at Webster Hall, I entered the already sweaty basement venue where reggae-tinged rock quartet, Deadbeat Darling, were performing their poetic pieces  from their Weight of Wandering, and debuting several new musings. After DBD, My Dear Disco, a bevy of youngsters from Michigan, whose disco-infused electro-pop, burst with energy and strobe lights. Moving right along, Black Taxi (Yes, again. I’m proud to say I caught all five shows.) strutted their stuff and   followed a set list this time; Ezra Huleatt bounced around, his body painted with “toothy animals,” like alligators, and Billy Mayo’s guitar chops never sounded better. And, of course, it wouldn’t be “dance” rock without the infectious rhythm section, Krisana Soponpong on bass and Jason Holmes on drums. The night wasn’t over yet, believe it or not, and I took a long walk to Fontana’s where Outernational we gearing up to play a late night show for the BLOOD ‘N’ BONES INTERNATIONAL ROCK N’ ROLL N’ POST-PUNK SHOWCASE.” The show turned into an early morning show, as it ran almost two hours late, but it was worth staying up  for one of the “future rockers’” best gigs to date (I’ve seen at least 30…).  Even more astonishing was the “stand in” drummer the guys had met the DAY before. Mr. Rick Smith had already mastered the part and the parts in 24 hours. Check out the offical, final day of CMJ here!

Because so many bands extended CMJ until Sunday, I forwent my day of rest. An all-acoustic afternoon extravaganza at Pianos, hosted by CitizenMusic Presents, satisfied my curiosity about some of the bands I knew in acoustic form. But first, some new frequencies to my eardrums were The Jenkins sisters, three country/bluegrass singers/instrumentalists, who traded vocal duties and  who braided their long pigtails together; it was something out of the Powerpuff Girls. Another folksy and melancholy band followed with Joe and the Coats. As I mentioned, I was anticipating seeing familiar acts without their amps, and Apollo Run transformed their set with grace, using bongos, baby grand, and subbing ukulele for bass. Next was something unexpected, but Nick Schupak (He’s going to be a frequent cameo in my tales.) and Jon Merkin of The Shake sang and played guitar together as The Wicker Men. Despite a heinously out of tune guitar, Schupak handled the spotlight with humor, and actually, wasn’t too shabby of a singer. Naturally, the closing suppertime band was The Shake, but a much more subdued and swinging version of themselves. I downed a bunch of Diet Cokes to prepare myself for the long evening ahead, the final stretch. A party at the McKibbin Lofts, “The Musicberg of Williamshall,” hosted the punky and outrageous Wyldlife, Shapes, and Etta Place, and the jumpy Static Jacks. In between, there was some vanilla cake that I ate even thought I was afraid it was laced. Calming my paranoia, The Twees, the organizers of the event, charmed with sweet pop-rock, and last but not least, Reckless Sons (They came in second place for my most seen band.) vocalit Matt Butler made his way in and out of the crowd, taking advantage of the stageless room,  and guitarists Anthony Stella and Cass Dillon upped their showmanship. A last minute decision to play one of the band’s “classics,” “Blood,” proved to be the best decision of the night, as a few improve moments became a full out, rock out, jam session finale. All in all, it was a fun night out in Bushwick and satisfying close to CMJ 2010. View the wind down…

Fin.

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