CMJ journal: thursday’s post soviet oppression
the Avery Fisher Hall Promenade is drenched in blinding sunlight
on Thursday afternoon. It’s an appropriate backdrop as attendess congregate among the exhibition/swag stations to listen to Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin [myspace] play a daytime set. It’s warm, upbeat pop (CMJ guide says: “sometimes bubbly, sometimes angsty love is all ya need”) in glaring greenhouse conditions. People shed layers while dodging Bodog promo freebies and shading their eyes from the light. For a few moments, sprfawling on the comfortably nearby couch to soak up the delightful performance and welcome warmth, it almost feels like a California teen drama.
CMJ also has a film festival. The only entry that I had a chance to see was the Fountain, the latest from Darren Aronofsky. Hugh Jackman plays a Conquistador, an impulsive monkey surgeon scientist trying desperately to cure his wife (Rachel Weisz)’s cancer, and a new age starman communing with a tree and levitating in a bubble rising through space. It is all rather pretty to look at, with visual extravagances neatly mirrored across the three settings. But the light design touches don’t translate to the dialogue or storytelling. The past and future costume drama portions feel the most awkward, but even the parts set in the near present, which act as a framing device for the others, are ponderous.
Later, I do my best to check in on Seattle’s SubPop label showcase. It’s a little before 10, and the Bowery Ballroom is at capacity. The bouncers are discouraging, but a line has developed in hopes that they’ll eventually cave and let in more badgeholders. Standing in the cold and being asked to move closer to the street is fun for a while. It provides a nice vantage point for checking out the SubPop celebrities like David Cross and Eugene Mirman passing through the VIP doorway. Although I get close to the front of the line — mostly through attrition combined with the doormen deciding to randomly sell a few tickets (apparently there are degrees of “sold out”) and letting a scant few people inside — I eventually give up. I’ve already seen the Shins and the Album Leaf in the past year. And while they’re both very good live, and I’m definitely looking forward to the new albums from the band that changed Zach Braff’s life, I can’t justify allowing this cold-weather vigil to top the two hour mark.
Instead I retreat to the Mercury Lounge, where ¡Forward, Russia! is headlining. Somehow it’s a nice Soviet symmetry. Starting with love for revolutionary leaders, facing a brutal line for demand-exceeding supply, and ending the evening with a British thrashy rock band urging a great nation to new glory. It looks like another shutout, but after a few minutes of complaining with another attendee about the uselessness of these fancy badges, we are granted entry to the small, but not disastrously crowded showroom.
The band is having quite a time of it, and they want the audience to join in the fun. They remind us that this could very well be the high point of our evening (actually, it might be given the previous two shivery hours on Delancey). They challenge us to keep up with U.K. standards of drunkenness as a way to promote more dancing. Tom Woodhead, the lead vocalist, is so spastic and enthusiastic that at least one microphone ends up broken in the wild and chaotic swingy performances. While he’s not damaging equipment, he occasionally tends to the synths. Along the way, the crowd wishes him a happy birthday with a song, angular guitars soar, and wishes come true as alcohol and rock combine and induce sporadic bouncing outbreaks on the floor.
In the event that I still have your attention, saturday shows from Seattle’s the Divorce (crash mansion) and Syracuse’s ra ra riot (Midway) are definitely worth checking out.