Ramblings of a Redhead Music Snob

Life & Music in New York, My City

Archive for October, 2011

Best of the Rest @ CMJ

Posted by xneverwherex on October 25, 2011

10/21/11 & 10/22/11

Friday and Saturday moved so quickly and so late that I barely had a chance to recover. Even tho the nights werent insanely late, the subways always made it that much more fun.

The best set of the festival – hands down – nothing came even remotely close – was Casiokidsfrom Norway (I actually thought Swedes, but alas theyre Norwegian). Casiokids were fun and creative and did I say fun. Their synth-pop/electronic sound was fresh sounding and it always felt like they were creating music on the fly.


Who knows if they were – but it all seemed so original. I loved the fluidity of the band members as they all rotated on instruments from guitars to keyboards to drums. Well the drummer was usually one guy, but lots of percussion was always added – often times in the way of fruits. Shaking pineapples and red peppers. I think there was a cucumber too. The band had everyone clapping and dancing and just having a great time. It was a pity the set had to end as it should have gone on for at least another hour.

Thanks to Spike Hill for having one of the best showcases and free too! Its hard to go wrong with that. The UK had some great bands around too. Its pretty hard to go wrong with bands from across the pond (as a generalization – not a rule). Jonquil, from the hometown of Radiohead, err Oxford, were a catchy 4 piece. They have a great indie pop sound with infectious hooks and catchy melodies. Their music has a sound that is quite reminiscent of Vampire Weekend. For great britpop, this band is definitely the way to go. The guys were cute and talkative and I could see them getting quite big.


The BMI/MCT showcase over at Bowery Electric also had some great bands. The day started off early with Tall Shipsfrom Brighton. These 3 guys certainly can make a lot of sound. Comprising of heavy guitars and drums with minimal

Tall Ships

vocals they were a surprise that I couldnt get enough of. I really liked the set with the drummer grabbing part of the drum set and sitting in the middle of the floor. He was then joined by the bassist who went towards the back and the singer who joined in. It was so impromptu and spur of the moment. They all then had one hell of a session with drums culminating in a spastic fun set.

And with all things UK – it would be hard to omit the lovely boredish lads of Viva Brother. They ended up being a surprise guest and they never seem to disappont live. Their music is energetic and has the feel of the 90s britpop bands. Unfortunately, the band just didnt seem as into it. The drummer seemed pissed, the guitars were somehow not on the stage but in the front of the stage in the audience. Their poor tech had to go back and forth giving people instruments. Im not sure if their set didnt play out as well due to a lack of sound checks. Their music is still damn great tho, so no matter how they looked on stage it was hard not to enjoy it. A bit sad that it was so short, but hell it was free and one awesome surprise.

Washington (state) had a great band in Beat Connection. Continuing in a similar sound to Best Coast the band comes off as tropical and fun. With never ending sound problems plaguing their set, they laughed about it and continued as best as they could. Their music is catchy and has a lo-fi electronic sound to it. I loved the use of their colored neon lights surrounding the keyboards that would alternate in colors. Most of their songs were sampled with lots of keyboards and drums but the vocals that were used (Id imagine their own) sound really great. ‘In The Water’ makes you feel like youre

Beat Connection

sitting out on a beach and just in your own place grooving out. Its gotta be the catchiest song out there right now. I could listen to them over and over.

Billy McCarthy has since moved on from Pela (very sad!) to form We Are Augustines. I had wondered why this band kept emailing me new things, but that explained it all. I really didnt pay that much attention and had liked their stuff but seeing them live solidified it all. Rock music at its finest and a band that loves to play for fans. What more could anyone want. When told they had one last song, Billy went with a 10 minute jam that was purely awesome. Lots of guitars and rocking out they were easily a favorite of the night.

Bands that left a lot to be desired: Fallulah from Denmark. Im not sure which was worse the Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover in which she stated they were her favorite band. Or the fact that maybe she wanted to be Karen O. Im not entirely sure, but I found them pretty unbearable. The band itself was interesting but her as a front woman made me cringe. Chrome Sparks, from Michigan and California, just seemed a bit young and odd. Their music sounded ok, but the woman singing just seemed bored and not really into the show. And their music was a tad bit boring. Enough to stand around for 20 minutes, but thankfully it wasnt longer than that. Ambassadors, who I appreciated a bit more knowing their keyboard player was blind, had some great songs. Overall, I find their music hit and miss. Some stuff is incredibly catchy while others just dont seem to go with the sound.

Savoir Adore is already a pretty big name here and they never disappoint. One of the last bands of the day they were a fun set with catchy songs and toe tapping and just leave you feeling in great spirits. Its hard to ever go wrong with them. The guy/girl vocals always work so well and a few mess-ups and laughter ensued.

All in all, maybe Im getting more selective with what I go see, but for the most part there were some great bands that really stood out. CMJ was yet another success!


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CMJ Day 3 – Late Night

Posted by xneverwherex on October 22, 2011

It was a late night for the 3rd day. I missed all the day shows, but I did make it over to Drom with the high hopes of catching Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs which I ended up missing.

But I did see some amazing talent that night. Publicist was there not as a DJ but performing. His brilliance combination of his drums, vocals and beats all in one is awesome to witness. With his shirt off, he plays with so much energy you can see sweat dripping down his body. The drumming was pretty spastic but mixed with the beats behind it everything works together quite well. If he ever plays live, its definitely worth checking him out.

Jogyo made a special guest appearance and by far was the coolest set of the night. Band members Dru Barnes and Devi Mambuka really knew how to get the crowd dancing. Singing about Africa and one world it felt like a whole unifying experience. Their sound has a reggae feel but reminds me of some of the other rappers from different African countries. Devi looked beautiful in a white gown as she danced around the stage, moving so fluidly. Everything about them was amazing and fun to watch.

33Hz was a 5 piece band playing a predictably dancey set. Their music was a bit boring in the fact that it didnt stand out on its own. They sounded like other bands and were a bit boring to watch as well.

Either way – the sets were quite good. Drom is a pretty cool place, but this night, put on by GBH was just filled with scenesters and college kids. Definitely not my scene, but for the music it was all worth it.

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Jones, Jobs

Posted by xneverwherex on October 20, 2011

Howard Jones
Classic Albums Tour
Irving Plaza

Howard Jones somehow made it to NYC and played an incredible set. He fought pneumonia the previous night and had to cancel the prior nights show in CT. I was worried that he might not actually be able to pull it off, but boy was I ever wrong. He came out in sunglasses, a black

Howard Jones

leather jacket and black glittery pants. No more long hair, but he still looked as cool as ever.

It was definitely interesting being here, coming from CMJ bands. It was so apparent how many bands copy a near identical sound. With only a drum machine, keyboards, a mixer, 3 laptops, +1 Ipad (that was apparently really needed), the show couldnt have been better. Howard was all mic-ed up and worked the stage. He started off with the album ‘Human’s Lib’ with videos in the background. There were sing alongs and ‘What Is Love’ was mostly the crowd singing. Everyone sang and danced during the more popular songs. Howard just loved seeing the crowd so into it. The first album with an occasional other hit was a very quick hour.

He then took a 30 minute break before he came back for the 2nd set. I was always a huge huge fan of ‘Dream Into Action’ and knew more of the songs off that album. With a nice costume change – hello red leather jacket and disco sunglasses – he was ready to tear through the next set. After realizing the show could not go on without his Ipad, he mentioned how this was dedicated to Steve Jobs. It was great to see someone acknowledge how the world has changed with Apple, especially in the music industry.

Howard Jones

Many of the songs have now been remixed and its great to hear how they’ve been updated. The keyboards will always be so distinct with a sound all of his own. He encouraged us all to learn the piano and come back and we’d all do a song together. His voice has still held up and sounds as great now as he did then.

Some of the highlights off this album were “Like to Get to Know You Well” which kind of went on and on with everyone singing the chorus. “Look Mama” was dedicated to all the moms in the crowd along with Howard’s mum who is slowly forgetting everything. “No One is To Blame” sounded as gorgeous now as it did then and instead of playing the album version he played the more popular version that the audience always loves.

He did an encore of sorts with the hugely popular ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. It was by far the best song of the night. He mentioned how a teacher told him her 4th grade class sings it every morning. And its something that we should all still live by. It was mostly sung with the audience with Howard doing different parts. It couldnt have been a more perfect way to end the set.

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CMJ Day 2

Posted by xneverwherex on October 20, 2011

CMJ Day 2

Day 2 of CMJ was a bit of a slow-down. I totally missed out on the Duke Spirit (thanks work!), but I did get to head down to yet another lovely, swanky hotel. I ended up spending the later afternoon over at Thompson LES Hotel which is a really great hotel thats nearly hidden. The elevators play old movies and the roofdeck bar is quite nice with views of the LES. Its enclosed and is a great place to hang out.

The music was even better up there. The two bands I saw had a similar electronic sound. Little Red from Melbourne, Australia

were really great live. They have very catchy vocals and strong harmonies. A synth-pop guitar driven pop sound. The bass lines on “Rock It” are catchy and toe-tapping – the whole song makes you want to get up and dance. You can almost picture line-dancing to it – until the keyboards and electro beats kick in. A fun live band.

Little Red

Small Black

Small Black, from Brooklyn, had a similar sound. While still dancey, they definitely have a more lo-fi electronica feel. With 2 keyboards, the band is very much embracing the 80s sound. The band looks to be quite young, but clearly have fun once they hit the stage. Lots of dancing and getting into the show. Definitely worth seeing – and since theyre from Brooklyn – no rush to see them at CMJ.

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CMJ Begins…The Good And Not So Good…

Posted by xneverwherex on October 19, 2011

CMJ – 10/18/11

So many bands, so little time! It seems its the same thing year after year with CMJ. Ive got a complete schedule that ends up useless in the first 5 minutes. Bands either fail to deliver or theyre so great – I end up seeing other bands on the showcase I might have passed up. Unfortunately, there are also times when you’d rather just shoot yourself and call it a night when disappointments continue.

The Good:

The Duke Spirit

The Duke Spirit – technically, they shouldnt even be included in this. Theyre established and damn good! Of course, they were the highlight of the night – and I fear if I continue to see them not much else will compare. Liela looking smokin’ hot as usual is always great fun to watch. She has so much energy when she performs and she commands the stage. Its hard to take your eyes off of her when she moves as she glances around the room. Her voice is perfection as she growls through the songs.

Surprisingly, they played their older songs instead of playing newer songs. Perhaps it was due to a really tight schedule in which they were needing to be in Brooklyn. They played a way too short set of about 8 songs but it couldnt have sounded better. The dirty, muddy sounding guitars were a great complement to Liela’s voice. The garage rock psychedelic sounded great in the posh Bowery Hotel. It couldnt have been a greater set.

Hands, from LA, took the stage prior to The Duke Spirit. They had a pretty big turn out with what seemed to be lots of friends (or maybe girlfriends) from Cali.


They sounded incredible and much better than I could have expected. The backing of the psychedlic, lush sounding keyboards and guitars filled the air, with a similar sound to Sun Airway. The vocals are strong and it seemed like if Division Day (another LA band) had continued and made their songs a bit more dancey this is what youd get.

The drummer, playing barefoot naturally, keeps the beats going. The keyboards nearly swallowing the lead singers voice on some songs works out beautifully. The music, the vocals and the guitars all blend so perfectly well together it gives such a complete sound.  If youre not sure of who to see during CMJ, this band is definitely not to be missed. They have a show on Thurs afternoon at Pianos which should be great.

Alamo Race Track – who I actually saw on Monday (pre-CMJ) are also a band that you dont want to miss. Hailing from The Netherlands, it seemed the Dutch contingency came out in full support for them. I had never seen so many insanely tall people in my life. The band started off a bit shaky, and its hard to say whether or not it was the band

Alamo Race Track

or the actual songs they chose, but as their set continued the music definitely got better. They have some great melodies and their voices play off each other’s quite well.

“The Northern Territory” which they ended with was easily one of their best songs and definitely more popular. A lot of people were singing along and its catchy and fun. It sounds so much better live, that its worth seeing them just to hear that song. Its a punchy, fun toe-tapping awesome song. “Black Cat John Brown” was also another highlight. The other band members broke out with other instruments during the song. It seems they’re all quite talented players going back and forth on instruments.

They’ve got a free showcase on Thurs over at The Delancey with some other Dutch bands. If youre not doing much – its worth checking out.

And the well — not so good and you might walk out on bands.

Marcellus Hall – now if youre quite into country music, youd probably find the band quite good. They had a good sound and the lead singer was pretty amusing – so this alone made it better. As Im not a fan of country music – this was pretty painful and it seemed each song kept getting longer. Thankfully when soon there were only 3 songs, it became 2. And naturally, they’re all about love and relationships. The woman on violin did sound pretty awesome and it was her birthday – so cheers to that!

The Silent Comedy – which has such an awesome band name – so disappointed. I couldnt wait to get out of the show and it couldnt happen fast enough. Sounded like some sorta folky-bluegrass jangly type thing with banjos and all. Maybe they should have played after Marcellus Hall insteaad of spacing it out so oddly. Perhaps that was the original set- but with The Duke Spirit having to be in Brooklyn lots of things were changed. Either way – meant an early night.

And oh New Zealand – I had such high hopes for you. Andrew Keoghan, who was oh so nice to look at, was a little underwhelming. The guitar and drum thing had so much potential, but it was more of just a singer-songwriter act. Not bad sounding all, just a bit boring.

Princess Chelsea was interesting. The women had good voices and the way the band mixed it up on instruments was pretty cool. Their first song, which I knew from online, was very catchy, but then it just sounded like more of the same. It really seemed like 2 girls on their computers, mixing it up with sounds and beats and 2 guitars who added a bit more, with a drummer occasionally filling it in. Not a bad thing, just a bit slow and was near sleep inducing. Prob a great band to end a night with.

Heres to Day/Night 2. Hoping for some great things!

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Mates Play Well Together

Posted by xneverwherex on October 18, 2011

Mates of State

Mates of State
Other Lives

Husband and wife duo – Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel – Mates of State played a really great, fun set on Wed night. In town for their new album Mountaintops, the band played a good chunk of the new material. Theyve also added an additional 2 members to their live set. The guy on the right – drenched in sweat by the end of the night – played his heart out, and worked the stage and delivered on all the instruments.

It was a great addition to the band giving them an even fuller sound. Kori was surrounded by plants/shrubbery which obscured her for those of us in the front. You could make out her blonde hair bouncing around as she jumped and clapped to songs. At one point, the audience wanted to see her and she happily obliged. From much further back, the sound was much better and of course, you had an entire view of the band.

The encore included their more popular ‘My Only Offer’, thank you Gossip Girl, and had the crowd singing and dancing along. Their fans are a great balance between younger and older and everyone seems to just love and adore everything they do.  The band also made a point during each of the openers to come out and bring them glasses of tequila. They seemed to really enjoy the openers on tour with them and it was great to see everyone liking each other.

Other Lives, from Stillwater, OK, were a great opener. With a unique sound of folk-indie music, the band nearly outshined the headliners. The band has a great sound with the band members each playing different instruments on the songs. It was great to see the upright bass and violin make appearances on some of the songs. The lush melodies created were just beautiful and filled up the space of Webster Hall. And while there isnt much crowd interaction, the band brings you right in.

It was great to see a lot of people just come out to see them. They have been acquiring quite the fan-base so it was no surprise when people weren’t familiar with Mates of State, but were only there to see Other Lives. Many it seemed, took off soon after MoS took the stage with a pretty different sound and definitely more poppy.

And Yawn – oh why did you come up with such a poorly named band. Sadly, they actually lived up to their band name. They were pretty forgettable and for an opener it actually was close to putting me to sleep. Perhaps its irony at its finest and the band is doing what they set out to do.

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