The final day of CMJ can be a bit of a mad house, everyone rushing to catch everything they haven’t seen already, all the while a number of big events are going on all day long. But this was the best-handled of all the days, starting with the new at Brooklyn’s Music Hall in Williamsburg (QRO venue review) before heading back to Manhattan for one last stop at the FADER Fort, down the block to make sure Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) made at least one CMJ appearance, uptown for both Webster Hall (QRO venue review) and Studio @ Webster Hall, then progressively downtown, amidst the raindrops, for old friends at Lounge Lit & Mercury (QRO venue review).
AAM 2008 CMJ Celebration @ Music Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Yet another Crystal band (yes, there’s only three – but that still seems like too many…) brought some afro-punk wild-core to Music Hall in the afternoon. A little early in the day for this kind of sound (going from the dark stage floor to the bright foyer at Music Hall was quite jarring), the audience hadn’t completely warmed up to Crystal Antlers. However, the band did bring a ton of energy, considering the hour.
The Ruby Suns, 3:00 PM
The last of CMJ & in America for this New Zealand band (after After the Jump After CMJ BBQ was cancelled, due to threat of rain), their Caribbean-meets-Maori dance-drum rhythms were probably better suited for down under (where it’s summer). Fun in an alt-Caribbean kind of way, like good Islands (QRO album review) or Paul Simon’s Graceland, they did have the audience dancing. Not a perfect venue for The Ruby Suns (QRO album review) – played up the disco-weird rather than their relaxed nature – but great for the time of day.
A Place To Bury Strangers, 4:10 PM
Finally catching these guys, and boy were they loud. Obviously better suited for nighttime, the low light in Music Hall still let them put on their slide/film strip show – bad time, good venue, a.k.a. the opposite of The Ruby Suns. Faster and harder than on than on their self-titled full-length (QRO album review), also not quite as strong – probably better when not coming after something so opposite-sounding. However, they would be better served if they stick to one film strip, rather than just flashing images on them.
FADER Fort @ 160 Bowery @ Delancey, Manhattan
Wild Yaks, 5:30 PM
For the final FADER Fort of CMJ, there was some fun party-punk to be had in Wild Yaks. Just out with an EP, there is a question whether their live sound can be reproduced on record, but for once at FADER, wasn’t so annoyed by the crowd & press.
Little Boots, 6:15 PM
That good will towards everyone else faded for Little Boots, thanks to the return of tons of cameras. However, the hyped & recommended band brought a sexy Anglo-dance club atmosphere to FADER Fort, reminiscent of other Brit band led by blondes, like The Duke Spirit (QRO live review) or The Ting Tings (QRO album review).
CMJ Music Marathon @ Bowery Ballroom, Manhattan
Lord T & Eloise, 7:15 PM
Just ’round the corner from FADER Fort was Bowery Ballroom (note to out-of-towners: not actually on Bowery…), and opening up the early show there was Memphis’ Lord T & Eloise. This aristocratic hip-hop act brought their incredible costumes (including seventeenth century wigs and gold-painted skin) to Bowery, but did suffer from a thin crowd, thanks to the early hour and high competition – there was lots of ‘pointing the mike to the crowd’ and getting minimal response. Still, more original than the majority of Bowery Ballroom bands, and had tons of energy.
CMJ Music Marathon @ Webster Hall, Union Square, Manhattan
After missing them at Music Hall during the day (they opened up that showcase at noon, so they would have time to make it to their nighttime show), had to catch Annuals at Webster. Sounding very grand in the grand Webster Hall, there was a bit of a remove thanks to the packed crowd and way over smoke machine. The smoke machine kept the crowd from getting to know this opener, whether the alluring singer/keyboardist Anna Spence or the funny, extreme faces from singer/guitarist/keyboardist Adam Baker (QRO interview) & bassist Mike Robinson (QRO interview). Really, this is a band that should be headlining slightly smaller clubs (like they did last Halloween at Bowery Ballroom – QRO photos), especially now that they’re out with the excellent Such Fun (QRO review), and are going from this to playing Late Night with Conan O’Brien (QRO Indie on Late Night TV listings). Still, they delivered, like on “Sore”, from their split Wet Zoo 7″ with alter-ego Sunfold (QRO review).
Minus the Bear, 9:15 PM
This isn’t to knock Minus the Bear or their fans – did feature dudes covertly smokin’ weed in the corner (that’s what Webster gets for using all that smoke machine…), though also a strong meathead/frat-boy contingent. In the midst of a tour with Annuals that includes Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (QRO preview) this band knew how to rock the light & smoke show.
Studio @ Webster Hall Opening Week, Union Square, Manhattan
Freshkills, 9:45 PM
Skipped downstairs (literally – though had to go outside & into the rain, and nearly tripped on way back in) to see the new Studio @ Webster Hall one more time. After being unimpressed on Wednesday (QRO CMJ 2008 Day Two recap), wanted to give it a second chance with Freshkills. Playing altogether looser than on their self-titled full-length (QRO album review), they improved the image of Studio @ Webster Hall.
Flameshovel/Pretty Activity Presents @ Lit Lounge, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Lit Lounge & labels Flameshovel/Pretty Activity played host to two very different local favorites that had somehow been missed until now, starting with Rahim. Definitely a complex strain of art-punk, they felt most reminiscent of Mission of Burma (QRO live review) before that seminal group broke more than twenty-five years ago. The crowd of friends still didn’t seem that familiar with Rahim or their latest, Laughter (QRO review) – certainly not as much as at their record release party at Urban Outfitters (QRO photos) last month. But well worth getting into, so one can truly appreciate tracks like their finisher, “Cities Change”.
After the impending wheel of time in Rahim came the shinier sounds of The Subjects (QRO interview). Admittedly fairly similar to other shows (QRO live review), if a little brighter, the smaller Lit Lounge made this headlining gig a more intimate show than opening at Bowery Ballroom (QRO photos) or Music Hall (QRO photos).
Merge Records Showcase @ Mercury Lounge, Bowery, Manhattan
The Rosebuds, 12:15 AM
After missing The Rosebuds at Bell House (QRO venue review) yesterday thanks to Broken Social Scene’s two-and-a-half-hour set (QRO CMJ 2008 Day Four recap), made sure not to miss Kelly Crisp (QRO interview) & Ivan Howard before CMJ was over. Touring on the back of the recently-released Life Like (QRO review), their live show at Mercury still tended more away from the sadder, alt-country tones of Life, and more towards the dance-synth elements of the prior Night of the Furies (QRO review) and subsequent tour (QRO live review). Perhaps these CMJ vets (QRO photos from CMJ 2007) knew that the fans wanted to be pepped up, after midnight on the last night of the marathon…
Oakley Hall, 1:15 AM
For the final act of CMJ, it was locals Oakley Hall. Despite their Big Apple roots, the band (QRO album review) is definitely more of a backwoods alt-country ensemble (with violins…), more suited to outdoors & in the day time than after one A.M. on a cold, late October evening in the city.
-Annuals @ Music Hall in Williamsburg, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. They had to play early to make their late show (which wasn’t all that late), and no one let the schedule be known.
-The afternoon showcase at Music Hall didn’t offer any free drinks, but did give out free hot dogs and raffle away prizes. Note to everyone holding CMJ events next year: more free food!
–FADER Fort could have used it – free beer & punch mixed with Southern Comfort, but nothing to eat and a pain to make your way out amongst the packed crowd & tight venue? Not a perfect mix…
-The final day of CMJ was cursed with torrential rain, which cancelled After the Jump’s After CMJ BBQ outdoors at Brooklyn’s The Yard – another free food chance lost…
-Lit Lounge was surprisingly comfortable – wish more acts worth seeing playing downstairs there, which has a ‘speakeasy/liquor-running’ vibe, illicitly carved from bricks. Certainly no worse than Cake Shop (QRO venue review)…