Finally! Enough with the bands everyone was talking about, Friday provided me with some real excitement for the first time at CMJ. Maybe it's because I'm a dirty punk rock fan who just needed some bands who were less worried about all the posturing and posing and just came to give a good show. Top to bottom, I made my day about bands who laid it all out on the table.
First up were one of my favorite bands playing CMJ, Ponytail. Fuck it, they're one of my favorite bands period, and it was cool to see them rip it up in the rather tame confines of the Fader Fort. They were followed appropriately by the Crystal Antlers, and the two bands back to back provided the most excitement the Fort saw all week. Sure, there might have been more hyped bands there, but these two -- along with the Friendly Fires the night before) -- left more on stage than any of the other performers I witnessed at the space. They were followed up with the Seabellies' first ever US appearance, and the beautifully haunting Schools Of Seven Bells (also one of my personal favorites of the week). You can see great pictures of all of these bands here.
From there I wandered over to the Knitting Factory for three floors of excellent noise and punk via the Panache showcase. The line-up was stacked top to bottom with great acts ranging from Aa to Monotonix to The Mae Shi to Best Fwends to Akimbo to the three bands I came to see; Fiasco, An Albatross and DMBQ. I arrived just in time to catch Fiasco's set, and having seen them play many times over the past few weeks, this was, in my humble opinion, the best. Technically, they were proficient as always, but on this night they harnessed the energy much better with a tightly packed crowd feeding off of it as well.
Upstairs I caught the tail end of Akimbo, a great sludgy three-piece, before heading to the middle floor for DMBQ. Back in the States for the first time in a while, DMBQ are the Japanese (and I think better) version of Monotonix. They have been going meshugennah at shows for quite a while now, and this was no different. A bit disappointing in the small confines of the Knitting Factory tap room -- especially when they got yelled at for hanging from the pipes, but they still killed it. I can't wait to see them later in the week for a not CMJ show before they leave again to go back home.
Back in the main space I caught a few songs of An Albatross. There is no hiding my appreciation for what these guys pull off musically. They do everything a great punk rock band should do, but they throw in a circus, psychedelic frenzy that can only be pulled off with precision and the always enigmatic Edward B. Geida leading the force. Sweat and excitement abound, I grabbed a sandwich and hauled ass back to the Lower East Side.
I ventured to Cake Shop to see the Vivian Girls, the only hyped band that I hadn't yet gotten a chance to see (well, at CMJ -- I've seen them about twenty times in Brooklyn). Unfortunately, the show was sold out by the time I arrived, but I was planning on staying for the Impose Records late night party anyway (which started right after the Vivian Girls finished). For the second time this week I left a band at one showcase only to show up at the next and see the same band playing. This time it was Fiasco. In a display of good showmanship, they played a completely different set. This time a super-punk set highlighted with three instrument changes and Kickball Katy from the Vivian Girls stepping in on bass for the last song while Lucian manned the mic. To quote a friend, "I saw Katy eating a sandwich, then the next thing I know she's playing with Fiasco and Lucian is rolling around on the floor." See if you can spot Sam and Nate taking pictures of each other in these shots.
[Kickball Katy with Fiasco by Sam Horine]
[Kickball Katy with Fiasco by Nate Dorr]
Next up was the band Shining from Norway. I would best summarize their set as prog-metal at it's fullest form. With a Rhodes organ, saxophone and recorder mixed into the mid-tempo, highly technical metal (yes, I said saxophone). Their set was amazing, but the set-up took nearly 45 minutes and killed a lot of the energy in the room.
Luckily, Team Robespierre knows how to get a crowd hyped up. It's no secret I have a history with these guys, but I haven't seen them play a hometown show in a long, long time. Not to mention, many of their recent shows have been at bigger venues, so catching them in a sweaty basement was the most fun I had the entire week. The crowd was so into it, with people dancing on stage and half the room singing along, at that moment we were all friends with big grins on our faces.
Closing the night was Los Fancy Free, and again, the energy was top notch. Unfortunately, my camera died before I could catch any of the crowd's excitement; only these couple shots of the band starting off. From Mexico City, a large contingent of Spanish supporters showed up for LFF, and what started as a rock show ended as a soccer match, with the crowd jumping around and spouting Spanish chants that didn't end until the usually docile staff at Cake Shop kicked everyone out at 4:30am.
[Los Fancy Free]
I didn't get home until after five in the morning, but strangely, I was less tired than nights before. It's funny how music can have that effect on you.