CMJ Day One - Recap
Here’s the deal with CMJ: location is key, and the only way to maximize your show-hopping schedule is to meticulously plan ahead or throw your schedule away and completely wing it.
Yes, having a badge will allow you to cut a few lines and hopefully see the bands you’re dying to catch, but these clubs—save for Webster Hall, the Bowery Ballroom and Terminal 5—are all on the smaller side. Chances are you’ll sacrifice a few sets to waiting in line for that one band you came to New York to see this week—especially if one band’s about to take the stage in Williamsburg, you’re somewhere below Houston, and you’ve got 15 minutes in between to find a cab in the Lower East Side and magically appear in Brooklyn before the lights go down.
This is why I took it relatively easy for my first night of CMJ 2012: there were a few bands in town that are up to exciting new things, and there were a few bands I’d never seen nor heard of who were playing at a stretch of clubs on my way to the subway after I picked up my badge. I went with a mix of old favorites and new discoveries, so I erred on the side of winging it before finding myself in a basement in Park Slope with ringing ears and a Narragansett in my hands.
YOUNG MAGIC (Brooklyn, NY)
Part of me wishes that Young Magic had appeared on my CMJ itinerary a little later in the evening, as their lush soundscapes and stunning visuals make for some modern, fuzzy lullabies. I arrived at Pianos in time for the last half of their set, and stood shoulder to shoulder with a full house of folks also hypnotized by “Night In The Ocean.”LEVEK (Gainesville, FL)
Any band that can whip out a recorder, melodica, clarinet and extra snare over the course of a twenty minute set—and actually make that grab-bag of instruments work for them without seeming completely contrived—is okay in my book. Levek did just this, incorporating a milieu of sounds into their funk-laden grooves and inventive jams.“Look A Little Closer” via Bandcamp: INDIANS (Copenhagen, DE)
Søren Løkke Juu was signed to 4AD in September, and the Copenhagen singer-songwriter’s first album with the prestigious indie label drops this January. If his intimate set at the Living Room was any indication, we’re due for some cozy electronic/folk arrangements that call to torn heartstrings and sonic solitude, similar in scope to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. “I Am Haunted” was Søren’s standout moment in the set, the brightness of his cries forcing a hush over the filling room as he ruminated on a ruined love.
“I Am Haunted; for KEXP
EARTHQUAKE PARTY! (Boston, MA)
At this point in the night, I had hoofed it up to Alphabet City in hopes of getting into the Ben Gibbard album listening party with a badge—nope, no dice, invite-only via Facebook apparently—and so I doubled back, hopped in a cab and booked it to Park Slope for the Allston Pudding/Fenway Recordings bash in the basement of Union Hall. Thankfully, I arrived early enough for Earthquake Party!’s set, the timing of which was pretty apropos as a 4.6 earthquake in Maine had sent tremors through their hometown of Boston just an hour before they took the stage. As a former Boston resident and an avid patron of its music scene, it’s shameful that last night was my very first Earthquake Party! experience: they’re any given Boston band’s favorite band, and have perfected the art of beating the shit out of their gear while coming dangerously close to deafening the room with their he says/she says verse play. Garage glory at its finest, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of homesickness while bobbing my head, swilling a ‘Gansett and wishing I had remembered to bring earplugs.
MEAN CREEK (Boston, MA)
Before they head out on tour with the Counting Crows for the second time this year, Mean Creek began their CMJ 2012 run with a late slot at the Allston Pudding/Fenway Recordings showcase in the basement of Union Hall last night. The songs of Youth Companion, which dropped on Old Flame yesterday, served as the anchor of the set list, with a particularly rousing rendition of “You Were Wrong” closing the night. For a quiet, unassuming dude who keeps to himself while watching bands from the side of the room, frontman Chris Keene utterly transforms as soon as he hits the stage, doling out a hefty dose of fire and brimstone via barreling chords and an incomparable belt.
Check back throughout the week as we continue to recap CMJ 2012. For of-the-minute show updates from New York, follow Hilary Hughes on Twitter at @hilmonstah.