10/16 – 10/20 – CMJ 2007
CMJ as always seems to be a clusterphuck and it always seems that you are missing someone. It never fails; but then you catch that one band that sticks out that wasn’t even on your list, and you realize that this is why it is so worth it. CMJ is 5 days of shows throughout NYC showcasing some of the newest, hottest bands out there that you have never heard of. It also manages to get some top names that you can also catch in tiny venues.
This year CMJ was a bit of everything for me. I caught some hyped up names and some bigger names and then the names that are unheard of. I rely heavily on word of mouth (thanks Hannah) at shows to know who are so worth seeing. We all have our favorites, but my friends picks are usually so right on – that once I hear I *have* to see a show, inevitablly I see the band.
So lets waste no more time and begin. Tuesday night the festival began and knowing I had an insane week of shows I ended up foregoing who I had wanted to see. Surprisingly it was ok as most the bands I had just seen. The highlight of that night was to be Hot Iqs which I ended up catching on Wednesday. All hope was not lost.
Wednesday was Day 1 for me. I started out by catching a free show over at Club Midway – Hot IQs. What a way to begin the festival. Catchy songs that are so danceable. A lead singer with a quite low voice in the realm of The National. A female drummer who is kick-ass who plays barefoot and looks like Lana of Smallville (Kristin Kreuk). I was so glad that I got to catch this band as they’re from Denver and only had a few shows. After the set the band invited me to Brooklyn with them and I had wished I could go. They were also handing out free CDs, so I plan to give them a listen or two. As you can’t go wrong with catchy pop melodies.
After that it was off to The Delancey. I was hoping to be catching Five O’Clock Heroes, but at some point it got switched up (is all I’m guessing). Instead I got to hear BM Linx not once, but somehow twice. They sound quite OK on myspace, but live I just wasnt so into them. They definitely had the New York vibe going on looks wise with a guitarist who looks like he just stepped out of a new wave video. Cant comment much more on them, as they were easily forgettable, which in my book is never a good thing. After that was The Wildbirds from Wisconsin. The lead singer has a sexy, sultry voice and the band has the classic rock/bluesy sound. I basically would describe them as sexed up rock, which was all I could think of during their set. 4 guys with longish hair that have the typical rocker look, with tight jeans that are oh so hipster. But their music is far from that which is indeed a nice change. Finally was the band that had a lot of hype that I had been waiting for. Cut Off Your Hands is from New Zealand, which apparently is the ‘it’ place to be from right now as far as bands go. They had about 8 showcases (if not more) that they were playing. Nick Johnson, lead singer of the band, has for one the best haircut in the bands playing these days. But regardless of his indie hipster look with tighter than tight jeans, has this amazing voice – reminiscent of Morrissey’s from The Smiths days. He’s beyond spastic when he sings and dances, and goes from standing to falling to the floor to hanging off beams in clubs and climbing on things. He’s got so much energy that their 25 minute set is the most intense set that could be seen at CMJ. Its fast, bouncy, post-punk rock at its finest. If you liked The Smiths, I dont think there is any way you can not like them. Likeable guys in the band who were so excited to be there, proved that this is what CMJ is about. And if thats not enough, any lead singer who can go through 3 bottles of water – pouring them down his back and over his head – should give you an indication of just how much heart he puts into each set. Besides, anyone who shoves a cameraperson away gets extra points with me.
After that it was off to The Canal Room. I caught Air Traffic from the UK which put on a good, tight set. Its a little too Coldplay-lite for me and too much like all those other bands from the UK. This is not a bad thing as I love Coldplay, Travis, etc. but I find that I wont remember them from anyone else, especially at a festival. I would add that if you can see them on their own, it’d be worth it. After Air Traffic was the band I was super excited to see. I caught Division Day from LA. The last time I had seen them was at CMJ a year ago with Birdmonster. I’m a huge fan of Division Day so this time I knew nearly all of the songs. Great catchy hooks, sing-along-choruses, and keyboards that will get you on the dance floor. Each song is seemingly different from the prior one, yet each has its own hook that will get you dancing. Rohner has an amazing voice and their new album, Bear Trap Island, is as catchy and as great as their prior one. So definitely go out and buy it.
And finally the continuation….
Thursday was a bit of craziness with friends coming to town, and trying to coordinate everything. I started the day off by catching Division Day at the former Mo Pitkins (sadly it closed that Saturday for good). Division Day now has a reputation for playing places that somehow end up closing soon after (it was sin-e for them last year). Again, another great show.
After some wandering around the Lower East Side I ended up catching some stuff at Pianos. There was a DJ set with San Serac that was quite entertaining. After that set, I think I caught some of someone else but cant remember. I met up with Hannah and it was off to the Fader party and get some food! The Fader party was good but but it was only open for those who rsvped. They had DJs between sets and free drinks. Always a good thing. I caught Cut Off Your Hands again and it was as good and as out of control. So loved this band! After they finished up – I rushed over to Club Midway to catch The Warlocks. Really no need for rushing as they were behind schedules. The lights went down (near pitch black), with the only glow from the neon lit floor. The guitars kicked in, the noise filled the room, swirling, lush sounds. It was hard to stay awake (surprising with how loud it was), but I was dead tired, and in the near pitch black with just guitars it was pretty peaceful. I should say that The Warlocks were on my bands to see list. Being a fan of the Dandy Warhols, nearly everyone who likes them, are huge fans of The Warlocks as well. And they did not disappoint!
After all this I headed uptown to Town Hall to see Stars. This was not a part of CMJ. Stars, from Montreal, put on an incredible set. Amy Millan’s vocals were right on and she sounded amazing. Torq sounded great also and had such a bubbly personality. They played a set consisting of songs from all the different albums. People were in front of their seats dancing and it made for a great time to get away from CMJ for just a bit. Their set was nearly 2 hours or so and it made for a great time. One of the highlights was when Amy messed up the lyrics to the song, and they went into a big production over having to restart the song. It was even better the second time.
After their set, I rushed back to the LES, and caught the end of Wintersleep‘s set. It was so loud is all I can really remember, and the vocals were near impossible to hear. Fat Baby was having a Canadian night with all bands from Canada. I was there to check out the Toronto band Uncut who I keep on managing to miss. It was a good thing I got there, because Im not sure Derek would have been happy with me anymore 🙂 Uncut put on a really great set. Their new-ish stuff is sounding really great. Ian’s vocals were right on. Their new guitarist Chris fits right into the band. If you like your music with heavy guitars, very loud, great songs this is the band to check out. “Kiss Me” sounds like something that Jesus & Mary Chain would have put out sometime ago. And that rounds out my Thursday night.
Its hard to imagine that those were only 2 days. Next day it was onto work (barely functionable), and then after work it was time to rush back down to the LES and catch more bands. I made it down to the Fader Party to catch yet another band from New Zealand. The Checks who were so full of energy and had some very catchy blues rock. They were definitely a band not to miss. And it was quite dancy as well, which made for an even better time. After that, it was over to Fat Baby for probably the biggest let-down of the festival. I honestly think though something happened when I listened to the bands, because I really thought they were supposed to be good. First was The Alarmists from Minneapolis. Now they were fine – but a little boring. Didnt do much on stage, but the music held its own. Catchy indie pop, but nothing out of the ordinary. The next set went even more down hill which was Spouse from Northampton, MA. Way boring indie pop that the band barely seemed all that into. It seemed they were bored on stage, which definitely didnt help. Next was Minneapolis’ The Melismatics. Now I really like the way they sound online, but live I was mostly appalled with the scene. I felt like they were trying so hard to be just another indie hipster band. Which is unfortunate, because they did seem to have some talent. Their music wasnt bad, but just seemed like any other band you could see in Williamsburg (and no – this isnt a slam on Williamsburg – but when youre seeing a ton of bands, youre hoping for something at least memorable). On their own outside of a festival, I think theyd be damn good.
About this time I got really worried about who I was seeing. My only consolation was – I had RSVP’ed to Crash Mansion and was on the guest list and could get in for free. Now their show would not disappoint. First – Crash Mansion is an amazing venue. It is huge and it is _very_ swanky. Its basically a place to go to be seen. Hardwood floors, stone walls, minimal lighting, tables scattered throughout the place and a DJ spinning in the corner of the main room. Plenty of bars with great drink specials, and acoustics that are amazing.
The first band we caught was Zambri. Mostly women in the band playing rocked out dance type music. Its quite likeable music until the woman singing goes off-key and is hitting notes she should have never tried to hit. Its ear pitching screams would make me never want to hear them again. Thats fine – I had no clue who they were and werent there to see them. Next up was House & Parish that I was looking forward to. And they were nice guys to look at, with a really good guitarist, and some good crowd interplay, but overall a wee bit boring. Just didnt seem so into the show. I was worried tonight was a big bust. UNTIL… WILD LIGHT. 4 guys make up the band and the great thing about them is the 3 guys (minus the drummer) rotate instruments throughout the set. They all take turns singing lead vocals, but mostly there is a lot of harmonies that shows off their truly impressive vocals. Very catchy indie pop songs that even without knowing the words – will have you singing along in no time. They were easily one of the most likeable bands that were playing. It was great when at the end of the set – they said that they had some very good news. They were just asked by the Arcade Fire to come on tour with them in Europe. I recommend checking out Red House which shows off their amazing harmonies.
My night had been saved by these great guys from New Hampshire. And after that I had the great fortune of finally catching Foreign Islands. I have been a big fan of this Brooklyn band for quite awhile, it was just more amazing that I had never seen them live. Foreign Islands tore it up – had the crowd dancing within seconds and a band that was as wild on stage. They played a pretty revved up 25 minute set that ended with the singer throwing his mic straight at a lamp that went shattering everywhere. Needless to say, whether the show was meant to end at that moment or not, the show was over for them. Damn intense!
And finally, we reach Saturday. Im just tired remembering all this and typing it up – I dont know how I did it all. Saturday started out with some day shows. I caught a bit of The Pierces who were way behind schedule at Club Midway. I dont understand how you can be behind schedule after only one band. I guess nothing started on time. A pity as I was going to catch Foreign Born. Instead I ended up heading to Pianos to catch Turbo Fruits. I had heard that they were friends with The Checks and it makes sense (musically wise). They both play similar music with bluesy rock music. A great set with some catchy stuff, although I found The Checks just a tad more appealing. Im now getting strange looks from people that I work with over the music. Next up was Foals – from the UK. They put on an amazing dancy set that just kept going and going. They really worked the crowd up – with the guys jumping into the crowd with their guitars. Lots of keyboards and lots of fun. I really cant wait to catch a full set from them, as 25 minutes was not nearly long enough. After that was The Maccabees who I had been longing to see after I saw them several months back. They seemed a bit tired, and it was only fitting with all the shows they had been playing. Their music was good, but not as good as they were previously. Catchy, British-post punk rock in the same genre as The Rakes. Still love the band – will just have to wait till they can play a full set.
After that it was back to The Fader party. Im not even sure who I was trying to see there, but I know I had missed them with the problems that Foals were having. I did end up seeing Yeasayer (and another band that I dont even know who it was). Yeasayer played a good set but I really wasnt so into the music and was getting tired.
From there I had to head back uptown to check out the new Terminal 5. The name doesnt lie – and it has the coldness of a terminal feel to it. The club isnt yet finished and the walls are just stark white and smell of paint. Sightlines are atrocious, so it helps to go up to one of the other floors to have a perfect view. Midnight Juggernauts opened the set and unfortunately with the sound problems they didnt sound that great. Some of the songs sounded really good, while others were horribly muddled. 70’s prog rock sounds, spaced out sounds, with amazing vocals (when properly heard) and you get a really great band. Electronic rock is here to stay. Cant wait to see them at a smaller venue (which Im hoping will one day soon happen). Unfortunately this great band is from Australia, so who knows when that will happen.
They opened for Justice – who claim that Midnight Juggernauts is one of the best albums. Justice put on a DJ set for over an hour that was pure dance party crazy. I was upstairs and watching the crowd flying back and forth – everyone moving with each other I was pretty surprised. I expected it to be wild, but I wasnt expecting what I saw. It was an amazing view, and it was a great set. A real pity that they didnt come out for a 2nd encore after the crowd was chanting “We are your friends, Youll never be alone again, Well c’mon”. Its hard to imagine with a whole club singing along, that there wasnt another encore. The band did come out upstairs to acknowledge the crowd. Overall it was a great set – but unlike their fellow countrymen Daft Punk – they just didnt blow me away in the same light.