Concert Reviews

CMJ 2011 Day One Recap

by Ted ChaseOctober 28, 2011
CMJ 2011 Day One Recap

Trying to get a bead on the NYC music scene in 2011 is nigh-impossible, let alone that of the country/world, but CMJ Music Marathon is still trying.  In this file-sharing, post-major label, recession era, it’s never gonna have the heights of prior years, but there’s still more than enough to see, and most importantly hear, at CMJ 2011.

 

The first day of CMJ is generally the weakest, as many attendees haven’t arrived yet, and who wants to rock on a (non-Mardi Gras) Tuesday?  It’s more about getting your badge, getting your gift bag (which was even less impressive than usual), and figuring out who you’re going to see – though Tuesday is a great day to catch acts that you know you want to see, and/or promised that you’d see, to free up the rest of your CMJ.

 

 

The Music Slut party @ Pianos

The Forms
The Forms

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Long-time ‘Friend of the Q’, The Forms (QRO spotlight on) have had many forms, from four-piece (with twin brothers) to their current two-piece, but seemed to have settled since last CMJ (QRO recap).  Their stage presence still needs some work, but at least singer/keyboardist Alex Tween (QRO interview) & multi-instrumentalist Matt Walsh are both standing up front – and the low-to-nil lighting at Pianos (QRO venue review) didn’t help.  More importantly, their new form is working better musically, as seen on their well-more-than-a-remix Derealization EP (QRO review).

 

Locksley
Locksley

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The band playing upstairs at Pianos was more of a time-killing filler act, as the upstairs is a poor place to watch anyone perform.  Locksley announced that they had just come back from on the road, playing these same songs, "So these are not those songs, but their ghosts."  Between that attitude & the space, the whole thing sounded rather weak – and only the current Doctor Who can pull off wearing a bow tie.

 

We Barbarians
We Barbarians

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Bands are limited in time when they play CMJ, especially daytime performance, even if they’re the ostensible ‘headliner’.  But We Barbarians made it work with a short & sweet set, as they were still able to hit up all the songs from their debut EP, Headspace (QRO review).  They had great energy & grit, sounded big despite the small confines and early hour – only need more songs (and maybe a fourth member).

 

Dignan
Dignan

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QRO’s Terri Wise caught Dignan upstairs at Pianos.

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KCRW & MFG party @ Bowery Hotel

The Duke Spirit
The Duke Spirit

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One band I had to see at CMJ 2011 was The Duke Spirit, and unlike other acts, were only playing the first two days, so took the first chance I could to catch the British band.  Unfortunately, that meant waiting in an unmoving line while one person handled all the names, regular RSVPs & VIPs (and waving in the super-VIPs).  Also unfortunately, it meant seeing them upstairs at Bowery Hotel, placed not on a stage (like Ra Ra Riot did when they played an event there – QRO review), but just a foot-high riser right near the stairs leading in & out.  And most unfortunately, it wasn’t an open bar like you had expected, but seven dollars for a beer.

"I don’t know why The Duke Spirit aren’t bigger," one person in line commented, and he was right – English retro-rock with a pretty blonde female singing would seem to be tailor-made for success (the guy in line speculated that it was because people confused them with the came-out-at-the-same-time Delta Spirit – QRO photos).  Can’t really judge them overall from this appearance, thanks to the venue, but still seems like they’ve got a bright future.

 

The Wicked Tomorrow party @ White Noise

Courtesy Tier
Courtesy Tier

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A new ‘venue’, White Noise is not the new version of Rehab (QRO venue review), as I was originally misinformed, but an upstairs bar right near Stuyvesant Town (turns out there is a 225 Avenue B), without even a sign at the door (just a hipster in hat on a stool checking his phone, not your ID).  It also has some quite unhelpful bartenders.

All the acts at White Noise had to play stripped-down, seated sets, and this seemed like it would endanger Courtesy Tier, as one of their biggest boons is that the duo sound like a much bigger band.  Yet, while they didn’t sound like their usual four-plus-piece, at least were up to three-piece level.  Most importantly, they rocked the less-than rocking situation, with singer/guitarist Omer Liebovitz delivering as powerful a guitar solo as you will hear from a seated guitarist.

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CMJ Showcase @ Bowery Ballroom

The biggest event on Day One of CMJ was easily at Bowery Ballroom, thanks to booming post-Sleater-Kinney outfit Wild Flag, accompanied by The Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger and locals Hospitality (who recently signed to Merge Records, the same label as Wild Flag & Eleanor Friedberger).  Limited badges were let in, so you had to get there early, and thankfully QRO’s Natalia Blas did:

 

Hospitality
Hospitality

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Eleanor Friedberger
Eleanor Friedberger

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Wild Flag
Wild Flag

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Todd P party @ 285 Kent Ave.

QRO’s Terri Wise hit up the unofficial showcase at Todd P’s newest venue, 285 Kent Avenue, and unofficial Stereogum party at Glasslands (QRO venue review).

 

Air Waves
Air Waves

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Coasting
Coasting

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Grass Widow
Grass Widow

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Stereogum party @ Glasslands

Mr. Dream
Mr. Dream

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Unfortunately missed:

-Zambri (QRO mp3 review) @ Cameo (QRO venue review), 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM.  It feels like it’s been a while since Zambri’s been a stand-alone outfit, and not the ladies helping out Hooray For Earth (QRO spotlight on), so need to see them back on their own.

-The Duke Spirit @ Brooklyn Bowl (QRO venue review), 11:00 PM – 12:20 AM.  Were likely much better here, in a regular venue, than at Bowery Hotel (see above).

-Titus Andronicus (QRO album review) @ Glasslands.  Great band, but unofficial show with no set times…

-The Wicked Tomorrow (QRO photos) & Alyson Greenfield (QRO photos) @ White Noise.  Came too late for Alyson, and left too early for hosts The Wicked Tomorrow.

 

Other notes:

-My external flash decided to stop working at possibly the worst time, as CMJ is filled with small shows in tiny, poorly lit places.

-When there was a split last year between the two people behind TheMusicSlut.com, QRO sided with the one who went on to found AHeartIsaSpade.com, but have to admit that the remaining Music Slut put on a good showcase to kick off CMJ 2011.

-Sorting names on a list by first name is a bad idea.  People can have nicknames, go by their middle name, etc., but the family name is absolute.  Also just seems low-intelligence, like that the person(s) checking the list can’t handle the concept of a last name.  And you don’t have to be someone whose full first name & nickname are wildly different to think that…