Monday, 25 October 2010

CMJ Report: Day 4

As the weekend dawns, so we move into the business end of the CMJ Music Marathon. With most people's schedules opening up and just two days remaining to catch those last elusive sets, hard choices must be made and plans stuck to firmly. The fact that the constant flow of free ale has a habit of demolishing all such best laids affords no excuse for not making them.


And so it is that I find myself on a frantic double train hop in order to catch as much of the Brooklyn Vegan day party as humanly possible. Hiking down from hipster heaven on Bedford Avenue, the venue is a mere 5 minutes walk....at least it is when the siren song of Asobi Seksu is calling. Before them still, I manage to catch the last segment of Oberhofer's set, which comes off as fast paced, good time rock. The band seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing show number who-knows-how-many, leaving me wishing I had caught more.


The main objective is achieved nonetheless, as Asobi Seksu take the main stage. As expected, Yuki's gorgeous songbird vocal is as alluring as ever. The overall sound is lacking, though, with that swirling wall of noise that should be providing the storm to her eye notably muted. The band seem to be hinting at issues with the sound throughout, yet blunted their instruments remain. Although songs from Citrus stand proud regardless, with the diminutive singer soaring, a key part of the band is clearly neutered on this occasion. At least it's free, eh?

With some interest in hanging around for recently announced headliners Devotchka, a new venue in a new area with new artists is calling me. And the lure is too strong to refuse, so I head South to The Woods. As enchanting sounding venue, this spot is due to host the no less enigmatically named Dark Dark Dark. In reality, it's a relatively bright, Bohemian location, at odds with the industrial wasteland that surrounds it. Gracing its small corner stage as I enter are Virginia's pensive Eternal Summers. With a minimalist, rough sound, the band keep things moving along but do little to rouse us beyond polite nods and applause. Later I find it they're considered a 'must see' at CMJ by some...needless to say I didn't find the magic they did.

Dark Dark Dark are quite another story, however. Initially slow and potentially pretentious, it requires only a few switches of instrumentation and their winding, enigmatic songs to realise that this band offer all kinds of overgrown trails to explore. Their hushed, fragile sound vaguely recalls the depth of Midlake in tone, but varies greatly in style and retains a very individual feel to the songs. The intricacy of the sextet's material, along with the variation of instruments at work - from accordions to piano and French horns - weaves together to form a compelling sound and spectacle. Worthy of much deeper investigation...and seeing at night, in a dark, smoky environment.

From those artsy leanings, the evening fare ventures quickly into more immediately accessible territory. Back on the Lower East Side, Fontana's is the stage for mainstream rockers The Vanguard and the pop-friendly strut of Locksley to show us what they got. In the case of the former, it's lashings of grand, melodic radio friendly rock. With elements of The Killers in their keys and vocals, the band border on the anthemic more than once and have a sound that could fill much larger settings than this. With a show at the Bowery Ballroom coming up, they have a chance to do just that.

Locksley are another group that clearly have designs on rock and roll grandeur, with a tight, high energy set that pulls out all the right poses. From the duelling guitars to posturing on the monitors, these chaps are seasoned performers wearing their influences on their sleeves. Those influences span a lot of classic British 60's guitar pop, with a liberal dose of punk attitude thrown in, at least in their electric delivery. Good stuff as a spectacle, if a tad derivative musically on occassion.


With the good time rock sensibilities fully sated, the last stop of the night is right on the route to the subway and takes in Jackpot, Tiger at the rather pub-like National Underground. With pillars obscuring sight lines left and right, it's far from an ideal space, yet the crowd is packed in and enjoying the off kilter indie-rock of this NYC band. The band move fast and their male-female vocals lend them a Los Campesinos! quality, one which also finds its way into the loose, raw element of their playing. It's only a few songs that I catch but they raise a smile, not just on my wearied mush but on those of a crowd in full Friday night revelry. That, in itself, can only be a good sign for this fledgling band.


Another varied, enjoyable day of music behind me, I leave the young and the restless to continue their drinking and focus my mind on some solid rest before the 'big push' of the final day. With day parties everywhere, 3 floors of band action at The Delancey, and a need to squeeze in a great many H-T-A friendly acts that have somehow escaped the eyes and ears to this point, I'm going to need it.

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