CMJ journal, friday : cadence weapon, oxford collapse, the thermals, mew, the grates

Thegrates Cmj
the Grates at the Bowery Ballroom

Friday started off with Brooklyn Vegan‘s day show at Fontana’s. When I arrive, Lo Fi Fnk are loading their equipment into a van and chatting with members of ¬°Forward, Russia!

After the jump, a belated recap of my Friday CMJ schedule. Stay tuned for Saturday’s run-down later today.

Cadenceweapon Cmj Inside, Cadence Weapon is wearing a googly eyed Lo Fi Fnk baseball cap while demonstrating that Canadians can rap. He brings up his Canadianness several times, so it seems like a matter of great national pride. Throughout the set, he plays up the foreigner angle in boastful Borat-speak to praise his lyrical prowess and DJ Weasel’s turntable skills. There is a celebrity- and gossip- obsessed song dedicated to new UA studio chief Tom Cruise and invocations for raised fists (at least one dude complies for the rest of the set). Stretching the performance out for a few additional minutes, he introduces their last rap as a club banger, demanding that everyone get krunk.

Oxfordcollapse CmjThe basement only gets more crowded for Oxford Collapse‘s splendidly ragged and garagey set. The trio, recently signed to SubPop, play loud and fast. So much so that keeps breaking the drums, requiring short pauses for re-assembly. Thunderous and explosive guitar attacks clear up into simple persistent melodies (“lives on the ocean so far away”). Near the end of the set, a guy shows up with a tenor saxophone. I’m not really sure what to make of this woodwind’s resurgence as a rock instrument. This summer, one showed up on stage when Band of Horses covered a Rolling Stones song and all I could think of was that embarrassing Rob Lowe scene in the Big Chill. Still, on (“Surrender”?) the saxophone and double vocals combine to provide impressively manic urgency. As their time draws to a close, a guy from the audience climbs on stage to inspire the rest of us to sing along at the top of our lungs.

Here in the increasingly-packed basement, I think about how there are few better ways for an up-and-coming band to feel like world famous rockstar heroes than playing an mp3blog party. Practically everyone in the audience is armed with a camera and the flashes almost never stop. As a Part of the Problem, I can only hope that the bands find the weird paparazzi zone more entertaining than distracting.

Thermals CmjNext up is the Thermals, one of my most-anticipated CMJ acts. Their More Parts Per Million may sound like it was recorded in a cardboard box, but it’s still one of my favorites. This year, they brought in an additional guitar player, slightly higher production values, and released an album approximately about a dystopian, oppressive, religious future. It is much more fun to listen to than you’d think. And a key benefit of having short, intense, and energetic songs is that you can fit a lot of them onto a relatively short setlist. Hutch sings like he’s on the edge of a cliff and his life depends on it. This worked well for the old introspective songs, but it lends substantial credibility to the cautionary tales, too. Soon, both band and audience are soaked with sweat from intense performances or near constant movement. A guy in the front boasts about the number of times he’s heard them play “No Culture Icons”. It is a great song, and makes it my favorite set of the marathon.

Mew CmjLater that night, it’s off to the Bowery Ballroom (Tonight, the line is less hopeless and the bouncers are much friendlier, but we’re already on the list thanks to the Grates) for MEW. The Danish spacerockers have been around for quite a while and are apparently rather mainstream at home, but this really seems like the year for them to get famous here. The showroom goes from sparse to packed in a matter of a few minutes as people scurry inside or upstairs from the bar. The intro starts with a guitar solo, and the whole performance tends a little more rock than space, but all of the cosmic keyboards and falsetto are all there along with nonstop video projections. Some are psychadelic screensavers, but there are also creepy bleeding faces, lyrics, weird dolls with giraffes (for “Zookeeper’s Boy”), and scary attack dogs. And the Glass Handed Kites is a perfectly nice album, but the live show, with its overwhelming layers, charming Danes, soaring lush atmospherics, and wall-sized visuals substantially heightens the listening experience. As they close, most of the band leaves the stage. A duet builds piece by piece into a gorgeous finale as an orchestra of cutiepants stuffed animals fly through an enchanted forest background. If a bespectacled teddy bear violinist doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what can.

Only about twenty percent of the audience sticks around for the Grates. The rest either hop to another show or flock to the bar to schmooze with the dapper guys from MEW. It’s unfortunate, because they miss the Aussies making the best of it. Patience Hodgson, the lead singer, arrives wearing a poofy white skirt and does a energetic jig on a stage decorated with balloon bouquets while the rest of the band warms up. Those who stayed are definitely into the music, participating in a hipster howl and response and singing contests with long-distance fans. Taking advantage of the the extra space, Patience hops off the stage and sings in the middle of the audience while twirling a gigantic pink ribbon. It’s an impressive show that nicely illustrates the importance of an upbeat, talented, frontwoman.

More substandard photos online [flickr]. Maybe metblogs can get a corporate camera sponsorship deal?

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