CMJ Wednesday - With More Beards And Plaid Involved

Almost all of my Wednesday was spent at Crash Mansion, where there was a showcase displaying talent mostly culled from the Pacific Northwest. I arrived just in time for the beginning of the set by Lujo Records' Look Mexico. With a brand of emo-influenced pop that reminds me of Deep Elm records but less angry and with more beards and plaid involved. Their valiant effort at winning over the sparse afternoon crowd was not a losing one.

[Look Mexico]

Up next was Portland's Starfucker -- definitely one of the "buzz bands" of the day, if not the festival. They'd just played a talked-up set at Terrorbird's party at the Cake Shop, and had schlepped their gear the few extra blocks over to Crash to fill up the sleepy-but-classy space with more synth-pop, live samples and dual-drumming than it may have been ready for. My love for this band is no secret (see my review of their album, in which I mentioned my burning desire to see them live) -- I did since then catch them at a house show in Seattle, which seemed a setting more their speed than a 4pm set in a club with a high stage and a 21+ policy. Starfucker strikes me as the sort of band whose performance level feeds off the energy of a room, and even though they rolled up their pants legs "cause it's time to dance" with only a few faithful in the still-meager crowd responding, or when they made a joke at the end of the set that the sound man took the wrong way, they did not disappoint. All my favorites were played, and even a few non-album tracks that make me even more excited for where this band is headed in the near future.


A bit later, the inimitable Kazutaka Nomura, aka PWRFL Power, took the stage. Derek described his set yesterday about as well as I'm going to; I'll just add that I've seen this guy play possibly dozens of times at this point, and today's was almost completely new material. Dude is a powerhouse when it comes to turning out great new material. The highlight was a song sung half in Japanese; I can't wait to get my hands on a recorded version. Plus I was glad to see the stage banter get a change-up: he generally has a set of lines he repeats, with a few variations, in between songs at each show. The first time these lines are witty and charming; the second and seventh twelfth they start to lose the appeal. So kudos, Kaz, for changing it up!

Directly following PWRFL Power was Seattle's Feral Children. I didn't know much about this band going into their set, and unfortunately had to keep bouncing in and out of the room while they were onstage, but what I was able to catch was pretty fantastic. A bass player who doubled on a floor tom, gang vocals, and dramatic dynamic changes were all involved. I'd love to see them again or hear a record sometime soon.

After their set, the show transitioned into a Loveless Records showcase, with Seattle's Terrordactyls opening the badge-accepting part of the evening. The anti-folk influenced melancholic pop duo played a fairly short set with a few new songs to be found on their upcoming album. A fun thing about this pair is how many instruments each guy handles at a time -- Michael Cadiz tackles lead vocals whilst strumming a guitar and kicking a bass drum, and Tyrel Stendahl sings BGVs while knocking around a Stumpf Fiddle (see pics on Wikipedia, it's crazy) and/or twinkling the ivories on a bright red toy piano or a micro Korg. Plus they've both got kazoos. Can't forget about the kazoos.


[Terrordactyls' Car]

After the Terrordactyls came Colorado's Photo Atlas. They played a brand of loud emo/alt-rock that I probably would have appreciated much more in my teen years; to my 23-year-old ears, it was hard to find anything to latch onto.

Then came New Zealand's Bang Bang Eche. Coming fresh from reports that the band had absolutely killed it at their KEXP live in-studio session earlier that day, I was anxious to see what these guys had to offer. Turns out it was synthy dance-punk played by teenagers, but with a vibe not nearly as played-out as that sentence might imply, thanks largely to their super-hyper energy level, enthusiastic dance moves, and gift for fitting melodies into the insanity.

[Bang Bang Eche]

Those kids also found fast friends in the next band to hit the stage, Pomegranates from Cincinnati. This is a band I've been following and loving for a little over a year now; it's been great to see them involve from fresh newbies dressed up in marching band uniforms on their first-ever tour outside of Ohio, to the comfortable, confident men I got to watch enjoy themselves onstage today. Their melodic pop in the vein of Anathallo or sometimes Islands seemed to sit well with the crowd. Dual lead singers Joey Cook and Isaac Karns have very different voices which compliment each other well, one being high and sweet while the other finds itself more in the sing-shout ranges. Add to that mixture Josh Kufeldt on bass, Jake Merritt's super-cute kick moves on drums and brand-new member (Nathan, I believe?) on guitar and trumpet, a few handclaps, and the Bang Bang Eche kids onstage for added percussion on the last song, and it's hard to lose.


[Pomegranates with Bang Bang Eche]

After Pomegranates' set I rushed over to see my buddy Graham Macrae play a special birthday set at Googie's Lounge (upstairs from the Living Room). His old-time country ballads always warm me up in just the right way, and it was nice to see the room packed for the Hootenanny (as he was calling it).

Ducking quickly back over to Crash to catch Oxford Collapse, I knew that even though there were a couple more great sets of the night, I wasn't going to last past these Sub Pop favorites. Their Thermals-meets the Clash-meets Built to Spill style worked well to wrap up the day for me, though, leaving me feel like the showcase itself was a marathon.

[Oxford Collapse]

The CMJ Music Marathon

CMJ Wednesday - With More Beards And Plaid Involved