My head is still spinning from this year's CMJ festivities. From the normal evening showcases to the FADER's daily Sideshow party, far too many bands invaded New York City, making it impossible to see everything I had wanted. Even just at the FADER party, it was one sick performance after another. Lets break this sucker down day by day.
The day began with a group from our own backyard, Via Audio. Being the first band of the entire week at the FADER house, they were the unfortunate victims of a few sounds problems. Tech issues aside, the quartet gave a great mini-set of danceable indie pop. It was impossible to resist frontwoman Jessica's boundless energy.
My next must-see was Dallas' The Strange Boys. The best way to describe this young band is Mod, Mod, Mod. In fact, a couple of friends of mine from the UK could not believe that they were not British. They looked the part, sounded the part, and rocked the shit out of their material for a brilliant debut NYC performance. Although frontman Ryan Sambol's high pitched mumbles are a slightly acquired taste, there is no doubt that they deserve all of the buzz they have received thus far.
CMJ marked my first opportunity to see the Los Angeles group Division Day. The band covered material from their album Beartrap Island, fitting in with the lush Canadian pop of Broken Social Scene and Stars. Their shimmery indie rock made for one of my favorite performances of the entire festival, as "Catch Your Death" and "Tigers" somehow got stuck in my head for the remainder of the week. For those of you who didn't catch any of their CMJ shows, make them a must-see on your list of bands to check out. They were fantastic.
It had been several months since I had last seen Fields, and their live show has just continued to grow since then. "Song For The Fields" is such a killer song, and live it just rocks even harder. Their My Blood Valentine meets M83 sound, filled with fuzzed out guitars washed over with a sea of synths and male/female vocal harmonies totally wins me over every time. I really, really dig Fields.
The final band for me at Wednesday's FADER Sideshow was IV Thieves, a group that many of you may remember as Nic Armstrong & The Thieves. These lads from Nottingham, England are pure, balls-to-the-wall rock & roll. This quartet may have caused me a bit of hearing damage, but it was worth it to hear the Supergrass sounding "Catastrophe" or the blues rock fury of "Take This Heart." Drum snare heads were broken, speakers were knocked over and the audience definitely saw one of the stand-out sets of CMJ.
With CMJ actually beginning on Tuesday this year, music fans were already starting to drag. A blast of sunny pop from The Changes was just what the doctor ordered to kick off the festivities on Thursday. This Chi-town group gave us several pop gems, including the wonderful xylophone-filled "On A String." Such a cool song. After hearing about The Changes from our Chicago buddies for such a long time, it was great to finally catch them in person... and it was well worth the wait.
Sydney, Australia's Dappled Cities brought back memories of the last time I got to see Pavement, which was back during the Brighten The Corners tour. Strong indie-rock tunes containing catchy melodies, interesting time signatures and plenty of reverb-filled wailing comprised most of their all-too-short set. The depth of their sound also brought influences of the Flaming Lips to mind, but without confetti and costumed characters. I am looking forward to hearing their US debut on Dangerbird Records.
The non-Canadian group Canada brought their seven-piece ensemble to the small FADER stage next. Somehow they pretty much fit, with guitarist Joe occasionally being forced to the area adjacent to the stage when necessary. The dueling cellos filled the sound of their indie-folk-pop, and their performance was a total joy to watch. These guys (and gals) obviously enjoy making music together, which became obvious during their spontaneous dance session of "Look To The Trees."
Thursday was wrapped up for me with the unbelievable London trio the Archie Bronson Outfit. Every year at the FADER's CMJ party there is at least one standout set that you end up talking about for the following several years, and this was one of those moments. The intensity of their set was indescribable. It was furious and manic, as Sam Windett's intense warbling vocals, Dor Hobday's distorted bass and Arp Cleveland's powerful drumming sent the crowd into a dancing fury. "Cherry Lips" and "Got To Get (Your Eyes)" blew my mind. Garage rock, bluegrass and punk have never sounded so good together. I am now a total fan of the Archie Bronson Outfit.
Day three at the FADER house featured several impressive surprises, kicking off with Humanzi and Oh No! Oh My! I had been wanting to check out ONOM for a while now after being assaulted by so many raving blog reviews. At times they reminded me of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but with less-grating vocals. Perhaps it is because they also share goofy band names, but I dug them nonetheless. After running out to meet up with a few folks for meetings, I ran back to 88 Delancey Street just in time for This Moment In Black History. Holy shit...
Yes, This Moment In Black History blew the doors off the FADER Sideshow. I knew absolutely nothing about this Cleveland based rock machine, and I have no idea of their album is anything like their live show, but they kicked an unbelievable amount of ass on stage. They kinda scared the shit out of me, but I was totally captivated by their inane mess of punk meets electronic insanity. It was a bizarre lead in for my final FADER show of the day, Shout Out Out Out Out.
Leave it to the Canadians to up the ante on the whole disco-dance-rock genre. This band encompassed all things good from DFA and put it in killer six-piece live band. It was impossible not to dance along to the infectious "Dude You Feel Electric," sounding like the bastard stepchild of Daft Punk and The Rapture. Thick, funky basslines, vocoder vocals, spiraling synth arpeggios and a sick disco drum beat sent the hipsters wild. Unlike far too many of the dance-rock groups around these days, Shout Out Out Out Out put on a great live performance, and what a way to end the day!
To wrap this up, I must congratulate the FADER for putting on yet another stellar event. From the graffiti-covered walls to the ice cold Vitamin Water and Red Stripe, the FADER Sideshow was THE place to be during the week. It was nice to see so many not to miss bands on my list for CMJ all performing on the same stage. Hats off to the whole crew for putting on a stellar event. In case you missed any of the action, our slideshow from the week is posted below. Enjoy!