CMJ Flashback: Phoenix, Sherlock's Daughter, Suuns And More
I'm finally getting a chance to look back on the CMJ Music Marathon and make sense out of what happened. First, let me say that it would have been helpful if CMJ checked to see if that week was good for me. Not that they would've changed their plans based on little ole me, but I like to amuse myself with these silly thoughts.
The reason I say that? The week was already filled with great shows in New York. My Morning Jacket was doing their residency at Terminal 5, Phoenix and Dirty Projectors were at Madison Square Garden, which was curiously billed as a CMJ show but that didn't seem to make sense, and Thievery Corporation were playing with Massive Attack at the Beacon Theater.
I had already planned on going to Phoenix and Massive Attack, but then I got a last minute ticket to MMJ the very night they performed my favorite album, so I had to go to that. My hands were tied! Of course, it was amazing. They closed the show with a cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper" and encouraged the crowd to sing "ba ba bananas nanas, ba ba bananas nanas," while of course throwing throwing bananas into the crowd. I'm happy to report that I did not witness a single person slipping on any peels.
The Phoenix show was equally as good, although MSG is not a favorite venue of mine. The band was able to really fill the space with their sugary sound. By now you might have heard that they brought Daft Punk on stage with them to close their set. The crowd went wild. As they should. However, I'm very sad to say that that Dirty Projectors' show was a disappointment. The sound was really off and it almost hurt my ears to listen to them. It was so loud and piercing that you couldn't hear the intricacies of the songs. It was really sad because it could have been a great opportunity for them, but that set wasnt likely to earn them any new fans. That said, I am still a fan and supporter of the band, but would not see them again in a venue that large.
Regrettably, I had to skip Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation so that I could actually go to some CMJ shows. With over a 1000 bands playing, you can imagine that it was very hit and miss. I'll just list the hits and leave the misses at home:
PS I Love You
A really fun Canadian band that had the crowd in a dance frenzy. They were loud and distorted at times, but their music was really catchy. I think they're worth further investigation and New York area music detectives can do more sleuthing when they play The Rock Shop on December 3 and Pianos on December 4.
One of my favorite shows of the week was the band formerly known as Zeroes, currently known as Suuns (pronounced "soons"). These guys put on a really intense show with droning guitars, distortion, feedback, weird electronic sounds, unconventional drum patterns and pulsing bass that makes your whole face vibrate. The music has a very dark and ambient sound, yet they somehow manage to make it dancey too, often within the same song. I know that sounds weird, but it worked for me at least. See for yourself when they return to Bowery Balroom on November 6.
This show had a very garage rock feel to it. Literally. It felt like you were in your friend's garage and at any minute their parents were gonna come in and break up the party, so you'd better have as much fun as you can, fast. The music was very lo-fi, chaotic, disorganized, scream-y at points, but fun as hell. I wish these kids from Kansas good luck and hope to see them around again sometime.
Along the same lines as Rooftop Vigilantes, this was a lo-fi punk show with hidden moments of pop. An entertaining show, but at one point Ty said, "You know, I used to live in NYC when I was a kid. I lived on the Upper West Side." That apparently offended the hispter snobs in the crowd who began booing at the mention of a non BK neighborhood. How tacky not to live in Brooklyn or on the Lower East Side. The guy next to me - my hero - yells "F**k that! Go Zabar's!"
These guys were brilliant. Perhaps my favorite band of all the bands I saw. They sound like an updated Björk-era Sugarcubes mixed with some weird Animal Collective leanings. Their music incorporates syncopated hand claps, xylophones, sandpaper-as-percussion, odd samples, and, of course, guitars, bass & drums. Singer Tanya Horo has a mesmerizing voice. The band is dreamy, melodic and unique. You must go see them at Nut Roaster Studios in New York on November 13.
Canadian hip hop with female rappers! Woot. Woot. The first chick starts beatboxing while the other starts singing - lovely voice by the way. A guy in the back starts in on percussion and a shy guy off to the side starts wailing some sweet blues riffs. Next thing you know, both girls are spittin' and droppin' mad rhymes and the crowd is going bonkers. Yes, me included. It was so much fun. Wow. And apparently they started off performing just to get free pizza back in Montreal. Gotta appreciate their love for a good slice.