After two days of CMJ shows, I expected I would’ve seen something that didn’t quite float my boat by now. After all, not every Tom, Dick and Bill Clinton who picks up a saxophone can actually play the thing, and this rule must rear its ugly head at some point during the week — right? So far, so wrong. Wednesday brought me nothing but more new bands to line up around the block for in the future, and I only hope Thursday will deliver, too.
The Muslims kicked off my day two line-up with a set at the Fader Fort a little after 5, to a decently packed house. It was early yet, which I suppose makes the lack of dancing, moving or general flailing of body parts to the beat somewhat acceptable, but I definitely craved an energy that wasn’t quite there yet — not that The Muslims weren’t delivering it. The surf-rock rhythms and punk-infused guitar solos are nothing short of an invitation to shake something, anything — certainly what your mama gave you and everything you’ve gotten since then. But it was early, and the blood alcohol level in the room was probably low. The testament to The Muslims is that despite that, the last song of the set ripped through the room and had every audience member moving at least one body part. It’s a newer song (actually the first song on the band’s MySpace playlist at the moment) called “Parasites”, and it was the perfect end to a short but stellar set.
Later in the evening I headed over to The Studio at Webster Hall, where Micachu and the Shapes were starting things off. To a passerby, the three musicians on stage might have looked like they were part of a high school garage band, but they certainly didn’t sound like one. Micachu herself is just 21, and she looks about 16. But maybe it’s this girlish (and boyish, for the sake of drummer Marc Pell) charm that makes what they were creating that much more impressive. They have a keen understanding of rhythm, of melody, of all these technical things that go into ultimately making something that you want to listen to or dance to without thinking about anything technical at all. Micachu is known for using unusual instruments and objects to create sound on her recordings or in live performances, most notably a vacuum cleaner which, sadly, made no appearance last night. But with a broad palate of choices, and the ability to shock the audience with sound and with the innovative creation of it, Micachu’s possibillites as a live performer are endless — the band just hasn’t quite reached that mesmerizing point yet. They know how to make good, interesting music, but there’s growing to be done, but once they come into their own a bit as stage performers, this is going to be an act to see.
Next on the bill was Home Video, who played a strong but sort of standard set until they reached the last two songs. They stepped away from the more rock/folk sounds they were creating and moved into something a little more, well, 80s for lack of a better descriptor. It was like every happy Cure song rolled into one, and it was amazing. Guitarist Collin Ruffino was dancing and playing, and God knows nothing says rock’n'roll like someone who can dance and play their instrument at the same time. He knew the way to my heart. And when he started feeling it, so did the crowd. The entire set was good, but those pieces where David Gross set aside his bass and went straight for the synthesizer and keys, those stole the set.
Of course if there was any stealing to be done, the culprit would’ve been the Jealous Girlfriends — it was certainly the best set of the night and maybe the best I’ve seen thus far this week. There was a lengthy wait after the Home Video set and what seemed to be a few technical difficulties with sound before the band could get off the ground, teaching me once again that good things come to those who wait. And this time good things were The Jealous Girlfriends. The fact is, it’s no secret that I love seeing a girl not only in front of the band on the mic, but with a guitar plugged in and slung around her neck ready to rock.
[Holly Miranda of The Jealous Girlfriends]
And not only can Holly Miranda rock (and do so while dancing, even more points) she’s got a set of pipes on her that pair perfectly with Josh Abbott’s, also on guitar. It’s a rock sound that definitely has all those elements I always like to pick out, the soul roots, the funk, the blues. But ultimately with the Jealous Girlfriends, the sound is so uniquely theirs, just as that venue was theirs during their half-hour set. As I watched the show, I just kept thinking, these kids have it figured out. They’re great live performers; enthralling to watch and with a mood that’s infectious. Even beyond the first row, which was populated mostly with friends and number-one-fan types, the room was mesmerized by the Jealous Girlfriends. And I was no exception.