Wednesday, 27 October 2010

CMJ Report: Day 5 (The End)

The chance to lie in and spend the morning lazing around is most welcome after several consecutive days of bands and booze. Of course it makes all sense to schedule the final day of CMJ on a Saturday, giving the hardy week goers one final fling before Sunday rest, as well as a chance for those limited by the weekly routine to get their share on the weekend. Even so, to the schedulers I say simply: cheers.

Once I finally awake from my own personal multi-nap marathon, it's off to the Living Room to catch the start of Music Snobbery's day event. Specifically I want to watch Alessi's Ark, the young British singer-songwriter whose endearing cover of Skynrd's Simple Man caught the attention last year.

With her unique, charismatic voice, 20-year old Alessi has a beautifully subtle approach to her songs. The likes of Shovelling and  The Robot are charming in their fragility. Unfortunately this characteristic seems to extend to the creator as well and she has difficulty pushing through certain sections, even succumbing to a fit of giggles during one number. Whether this is down to a lack of confidence in an unfamiliar environment or some other factor, those in attendance are firmly behind her and willing her on. When she hits all the right notes it's a joy to behold and hopefully the experience helps rather than hinders her growth as a performing artist.

As the next band due on here is also scheduled to hit the next event I plan to catch - the I rock I roll party down at the multi-floored Delancey - it seems natural to move on and try to stick around in one venue for at least a few hours of the Marathon. This next party reputedly having unlimited nachos makes it a prime candidate.

Ravens & Chimes are playing as I come in and up, up, up to the attempted jungle on the Delancey's roof terrace. The pedant in me mumbles about the lack of band visibility through the foliage, as the main mind marvels at the weird and wonderful venues of the city. The band themselves are pleasant  and intricate indie fare that sounds like they have a bit more to offer in a full live setting.

Down one flight of stairs and Millionyoung is setting up to deliver one of several sets he's lined up for CMJ 2010 to feast our ears upon. On decks and guitar himself, Mike Diaz calls on a bassist and drummer, both positioned awkwardly in the middle of a walkway to the upper deck, to round out his live sound. And despite some gripes with the sound (a fatigued looking tech seemingly covering 3 stages all on his lonesome) they bring a warm, hazy atmosphere to the party. Particularly so on new single Calrissian, which sounds more organic than any MillionYoung material I've heard to date. The rise of this skilled Floridian seems set to continue, on this form.

Back upstairs and a band of whom I've seen plenty written, yet heard nothing at all, Savoir Adore are midway through an acoustic set. It's hard to tell just how much of this is their usual style with such a stripped down set up, but there's a simple beauty to the songs they deliver all the same. With a light, elegant vocal, Deidre Muro has the perfect tone for the setting, as the guitar bobs gently underneath her. As I say, no definitive opinion taken but an enjoyable set for this format and one that invites a full listen.

Every festival, especially those with an industry element to them, throws up a buzz band whose name grows as the days pass by. Last year it proved to be Surfer Blood, eventual darlings of CMJ '09 and propelled along nicely by the hype from it. This time around it feels as though Newport Beach's Young the Giant are getting that surge. A full to bursting Delancey basement for their last set, if not cementing that outcome, certainly does nothing to detract from the likelihood. 

The energy is high in their addictive blend of alternative and indie rock, which has just enough quirks to appeal to more discerning tastes as well as the memorable hooks that will attract anyone from pop pickers to commercial radio. Nowhere is this more in evidence than final song - nay, anthem - My Body, which is destined to be their breakout tune and probably to appear in adverts for anything from energy drinks to deodorant. Which isn't to detract from it right now, as it's a hugely endearing tune. As appreciative as a crowd of tired, half cut industry folks can be, the response is warming.

Back on the roof, a couple of songs from Miracles of Modern Science boasts the impressive sight of an electric violin, a form of ukulele (I think), and an imposing double bass booming out the low end of this distinctly original sound. Somewhere between classical influences and pop melody, these guys find a catch, quirky mix that lingers in the memory both aurally and visually. Certainly on the list for further research. 


Almost as tiring dashing up and down one venue as hopping between different ones, I resolve to catch the last few moments of Philadelphia Grand Jury and then move on. It's well worth the effort, as the Australians deliver rock attitude in a way only that primal nation can, culminating in an unhinged, yet totally inspired cover of Jay-Z's 99 Problems. The band switch positions, end up in and around the crowd, offer the free nachos to one and all, and generally create a spectacle that probably isn't going to be topped for the rest of the bill, so it seems like the perfect time to move on to my final destination, the Pop Tarts Suck Toasted show at Cake Shop. 

The main reason for this is to catch Pennsylvanian noise makers SOARS, whose wonderful s/t debut I still owe a glowing review. For the moment, a plum live review will have to make do, as the band are visually not so remarkable but sonically a force to be reckoned with. The brooding quality to tracks like Figurehead and Throw Yourself Apart drives past shoegaze and into unknown territory, rarely kicking up a fierce pace but feeling no less formidable for it.  


In a very different way, the final band I catch are just as intriguing. New York's Ava Luna, with three female backing vocalists and a somewhat awkward looking gentleman ,singer who can actually belt out some of the funkiest singing imaginable. They slink and groove their way through an engaging electro-indie set that's quite apart from anything I would have expected. Another to keep an eye out for once the week's chicanery has died down.


Thus marked the end of CMJ 2010, a gruelling but hugely enjoyable week of varied and talented artists descending once again for 5 days of musical long-distance running. Others managed far more than I, so I doff my cap to them especially. Thanks to all the artists that made it such a wonderful experience and expect a summary post with music, video, and plenty of pictures in the next few days. Until next year....



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