Words by Will Suter
Photos by Maia Stern
Last night was the start of CMJ and I made it out to The Studio at Webster Hall. It is a brand new venue that hosted Awesome New Republic, Reggie Watts, and Tigercity for its opening night party. The venue is perfect for showcasing and presents a very intimate vibe, backed by a killer sound system. Awesome New Republic opened the night up and got people dancing...at least New York Dancing, which is leg-thumping and shoulder-swaying. Based in Miami and channeling as much David Bowie as they do Prince, ANR were able to win over the crowd with a mixture of funk, tribal, and sometimes straight indie music.
[Awesome New Republic]
Originally a duo, they have blossomed into a three-piece that has seen their sound rise to a much more accessible and engaging level. Michael John Hancock is a charismatic front-man who jumps around stage (and even into the audience) with a massive seashell around his neck and belts out some seriously soulful vocals. B-Rob drives the rhythm playing 2 different keyboards at once, carrying the bass with his left hand (on the Moog) and straight synth with his left (on the Motif). The original duo of B-Rob and MJ is now backed by long-time collaborator Bob Ladue on the drums. Bob is a welcome addition who keeps the band on pace and was able to switch onto guitar for the last couple songs and straight wail. The band has slowly been popping up on people's radar over the past few months and with more performances like this one, should become more than just a blip in the near future.
Who is Reggie Watts and why have I never heard of this guy before? His performance was the essence of CMJ, the essence of discovery that the festival used to be known for. He was like Flight of the Concords meets Rahzel. He MC'ed the entire event and had about a 20 minute set in between ANR and Tigercity. During his set he told some jokes and did cool beat-boxing/voice looping. He was able to create some really interesting layered sounds which he coupled with sung stories of love, hate, and the Williamsburg Stabber. This guy is a serious personality who I can see inhabiting the role of Michael Showalter and/or Rhys Darby sometime soon.
Tigercity closed the night out at The Studio on a very expected solid note. These guys are another "Brooklyn-based indie band," but they're able to make 80's synth and crooning into something distinctly their own. I've seen them a few times before and will continue to see them in the future as they know how to put on a solid show and can get a crowd ready to go home and throw on some old Cars albums.