CMJ New York City - September 14 to 17, 2005

CMJ New York City - September 14 to 17, 2005
By Cam Lindsay, Dino DiGiulio, Helen Spitzer, Jasamine White-Gluz, Jessica Whyte and Michael Barclay An Albatross If Robert Crumb drew a caricature of Steven Tyler, it would look a lot like Albatross vocalist Edward Gieba, a total "fuck me" rock god caressing the treasure trail to his pubes. His sexual energy commanded the audience's hardcore boys to crawl all over each other, while the girls simply stood at the front of their stage shaking and losing their shit. Rounded out by a suburban metal troll on guitar, a Farfisa player dressed like an accountant, and a shockingly danceable thrash metal rhythm section raised on Slayer, it's entertainingly easy to overlook the one-dimensional material. MB Eric Bachman The venue interior felt like a converted barn; it hosted a makeshift stage adorned with red velvet curtains and white twinkle lights. You could catch the scent of the food cooking, and it all meshed perfectly with Crooked Fingers' Eric Bachman's distinctive vocals and casual yet self-aware stage presence. His demeanour is shy but his voice booms out confidently and the contrast works. The small crowd was silent and held in rapture, while Bachman played a solo set that included old covers like "Sunday Morning Coming Down," new tracks from Dignity and Shame, and some not yet recorded. JW Ty Braxton The multi-instrumental wunderkind of the group Battles carefully constructed guitar and beat-box loops with an array of pedals in a sit-down performance that had the packed venue straining in vain to see how he assembled the otherworldly sounds. While overlapping and collapsing time signatures, Braxton also displayed a powerful and soulful crooning voice that rose above the occasional confusion. MB Cheeseburger Though the name sounds like it should be a super-group of Ronald McDonald, the Burger King and the A&W Bear, Cheeseburger are actually a trio aiming to sound like a band twice the size. The arena-tested power rock consisted of only drums, guitar and vocals, and the pure guttural force of the three was enough turn neglectful heads. Joe Bradley's Danzig-like moan carried the tongue-in-cheeky songs, but in a venue like the Bowery Ballroom, it could have used some chunky bass to hammer home the message a little better. CL Dandy Warhols With its impending closure looming over everyone's minds, music fans packed into CBGB to spend a moody, sex-charged evening with the Dandy Warhols. The Dandies, often misunderstood and occasionally the darlings of modern rock radio, took the stage in true rock star fashion. The intensely charismatic bunch ran through a solid set that included the popular hits "Bohemian Like You" and "Heroin is So Passé," as well as crowd favourites "I Love You" and "Minnesoter." An impromptu a cappella version of "We Used to Be Friends" was matched by a crowd sing-along. No matter what you're opinion is of the Dandies, there was no denying that this was one of the better performances of the festival. JWG Devin Davis Three minutes of pop pleasantries are nothing without passion, and Devin Davis's vocal fervour filled the room with infectious enthusiasm. Rushing tempos reminiscent of early Supergrass gave this band's set an "edge of your seat" feel. Every hook was played with a "leave them wanting more" minimalism. Another saving grace was the interesting instrumentation, including a squeaky Stooges like sax and the use of a Theremin, which Davis commanded into perfect pitch - no small feet. DD Jason Forrest Commanding us to "respect the cock," this WFMU hero and the bad boy of Mutek '04 did little more on stage than press play on his laptop and flip out Wayne's World style like a balding Jack Black. His exhilarating brand of "cock rock disco" is the antithesis of virtually every other laptop performance, and the shit-eating grin on Forrest's naughty little boy face knows that he's getting away with it. MB The Gossip What a difference a revitalised band makes. Revving back up to full-speed following gallbladder surgery (Beth Ditto) and the induction of a new drummer (Shoplifting's babe-magnet Hannah Blilie), the sound of the ever-evolving Gossip drew every feisty lady to the Knitting Factory. Unveiling some funky new tricks, they set a minor disco inferno on the dance floor, an unexpected but perfect direction for their impassioned R&B punk rock. The chemistry between all three members quickly enveloped the building, culminating in a fiery encore of "Jealousy" that underscored just how much they feel like a totally new band. Lead on. HS The High Dials Having left the scooter in the garage, the formerly '60s infatuated High Dials came off like collagists whose montage carries none of the source material's original identity. Harmonies coloured their set with a the kind of pastels Teenage Fanclub paint, while the rhythm section was set to explode into Entwistle/Moon primaries at any moment, yet recalled moments from Liverpool to Madchester all the while. Lead singer Trevor Anderson kept the audience focused with an ease of performance only someone comfortable in his craft could. The Dials have found their own place in a mellow pop jangle crackling with dynamic bursts. DD Holopaw With an army of musicians surrounding him onstage, singer John Orth was the angel-voiced monkey in the middle of a sublime folk-pop orchestra. Creating a warm and gentle hush throughout the venue, Holopaw's amiable aura was nothing but positive, attracting some unexpected head-bobbing to the relatively peaceful music. But it wasn't all sleep-inducing lullabies; the band took some chances and raised the ear plug alarm up to "red" with a couple of noisy jams to prove they're both a little bit country and a little bit rock'n'roll. CL Hopewell If you are wondering where the soul of Mercury Rev went, it may just have followed former member Jason Russo after his departure from the legendary unit. Now fronting Hopewell & the Birds of Appetite, he led the band through a set reminiscent of the fuzzy dynamics bands had in the early '90s. The thick and tasty sounds may share a tonal quality with the grungers, but the band reigns with a pop majesty that glitters over the feedback. Package all this with a stage presence that gleamed with rock'n'roll glory; Hopewell aren't the heirs, they're building the kingdom. DD Lady Sovereign During one of the few opportunities to catch indie hip-hop during the festival, Lady Sovereign made a rare U.S. visit to perform a brief but intoxicating set. The small framed, Adidas-draped white girl from the UK came out swinging with her spitfire rhymes and catchy choruses. Her response to the misogynist Ying Yang Twins' "The Hoarse Whisperer" and her play on Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" were definite highlights. Her original tracks, like the grime sing-along "Random" turned would-be sceptics into true believers with one quip of her childlike, fiery voice. JWG Man Man Five fashion-stunted Philly greasers clad in white unleashed pots and pans percussion, Klezmer trumpets and swampy New Orleans rhythms, all reined in with Rhodes piano riffs pounded out by man of men Honus Honus. Group vocals were like a drunken Russian chorus revelling in its hoarseness, leaving the audience alternately stunned, bewildered and absolutely ecstatic. MB Maplewood Sugar sweet harmonies swept though the Brooklyn venue, as natives Maplewood longed for a California sunset. Strumming with acoustic lust on two six strings, a 12-string, and hand played percussion, this quintet's not so dusty lineage includes members of Champale, Koester and Nada Surf. Riffs shone with a Spanish guitar flare, yet it never delved into postcard mariachi territory. Instead, the band lit the room with a CSNY glow. DD Men, Women & Children From the ashes of popular emo bands Glassjaw and the Reunion Show has risen Men, Women and Children, the neo-disco band set to take over dance rock. With an outlandish stage setup and choreography, the group's performance may initially be too much to take. After closer listens though, the intricacies of the pop songs begin to come through and the sheer mania of the live show becomes less distracting. JWG Need New Body If their records sound like Krautrock punk with free jazz tangents, Need New Body's live show betray them for the freaky hippies they are, albeit with more speed than weed. Front-man Jeff Bradbury opened with a straight-up folk song on banjo, but where they went after that was anyone's guess, with two keyboards driving the relentless pulse. MB Neon Blonde At the first proper gig for the Blood Brothers' Johnny Whitney and Mark Gajadhar under the name of Neon Blonde there was nary a misstep. Showcasing songs from their brand new album, the trio (rounded out by a bassist) cut out the viciousness from the Brothers' spastic act for a rousing display of fiery, new wave-inspired art rock. Whitney's voice and flamboyant nature directed the performance as he manned both a guitar and synth while still maintaining enough skill to dance on the spot along with his devoted spectators. CL The Rakes Easily the next big thing from Britain, London's the Rakes brought their nervous agit-pop to a modest-sized yet thrilled crowd. Singer Alan Donohoe ruled the stage with his man-child persona, which thrived on eccentric movements, à la Ian Curtis, Jarvis Cocker and David Byrne, and the oddest of arbitrary quips. The tight Wire-y guitar riffs and danceable drumbeats passed with flying colours, as every body in the house was either pogoing or violently nodding in approval. CL The Robot Ate Me In the season of shtick, one-man band Ryland Bouchard still believes in the importance of being earnest. His summer camp sit-down show began with aching accordion before the lo-fi dance party started with guest drummers and keyboardists from the amateur audience, along with multi-part crowd sing-alongs. Bouchard boasted a wry, dark wit on songs like "Genocide Ball," yet his plaintive croon and drop-dead gorgeous love songs convince you that he'd rather be thinking than winking. MB The Teeth The Teeth kicked it with perfect harmonies and songs that were catchy but also intricate. The quartet had undying energy and the three front-men impressed repeatedly with how well they sang, especially together. "Catchy harmonies" might imply a sugary pop sound, but the band avoided over-sweetening by throwing in fierce screams and aggressive bits that reminded me I was at a rock show. JW Mary Timony Fans of Timony's earliest Helium days love that she's wielding the guitar again full-time in a two-piece with drummer Devin Ocampo. But it definitely sounds like a regression, lacking much of the melodic complexity of her piano-based work, and oddly enough, she doesn't even look as comfortable on the instrument that once made her a guitar heroine. MB Tra La La An audience charged up with booze and rock'n'roll was treated to a raucous performance by the septet Tra La La. The group is comprised of three male instrumentalists and four female vocalists. Unfortunately, the crowd didn't seem to listen, as the event degraded into money, booze and ice cubes being thrown at the women, and a wild set digressing into an on-stage play fight. In short, the night went from being silly and fun to an awkward circus very quickly. JW