Five Notes From CMJ 2014


This week, I made it out to see a lot of live music. Most of it was for the CMJ Festival; I’m also going to throw in Dark Blue’s in-store at Rough Trade (pictured above) from yesterday into the mix, as I’d been in the space for a CMJ show not twelve hours earlier. As I did with my look at Basilica Soundscape, here are five things that stuck with me in particular.

1. The No-Longer-Accurately-Named Moon Duo
The last time I saw Moon Duo was at a Vol.1-sponsored show in 2010. They were fantastic then, and the contours of their sound haven’t changed dramatically: basically, they’ve found a very comfortable place at the intersection of Krautock-style motorik and psychedelia’s sonic adventurousness. In practice, what this means is that they have a solid core around which they can venture off into unexpected places and never lose focus. Their set at a showcase at Rough Trade presented by Austin Psych Fest and Alisa Loog was at once sonically challenging and bliss-inducing.

2. S’s “Wrecking Ball” Cover
I’ve admired the music made by Jenn Ghetto’s many projects of the years–Carissa’s Wierd then, Silly Goose now, and S through most of it–and the full-band iteration of S is terrific, able to pull off a terrific loud/quiet/loud dynamic. That Ghetto’s vocal delivery both sounds like whispering and can be heard perfectly clearly is also an impressive feat. At the Hardly Art/Sub Pop showcase at the Knitting Factory, S kicked off the night with a fine set focusing on Cool Choices. She also transposed a bit of “Wrecking Ball” into the middle of one song; delivered in a bittersweet fashion, it fit perfectly.

3. A Place to Bury Strangers Channeling Lightning Bolt
It was late at night at Rough Trade; the aforementioned night of psych bands had reached its penultimate act, White Fence. They played their closing notes and, almost immediately following, something sprang to life at the opposite end of the venue. It was headliners A Place to Bury Strangers, playing on the floor with strobe lights going bonkers, squalls of noise erupting from amplifiers, and heads in the venue spinning. Not a bad change of pace to close out the night.


4. Halifax Indiepop Is Alive and Well
Earlier in the week, at a Riot Act party at Pete’s Candy Store, I saw Halifax’s Monomyth. Halifax has a long and storied tradition of indiepop bands that elude easy description, borrowing disparate elements from a host of styles; Monomyth absolutely tap into that anything-goes aesthetic, and manage to do some surprising things with it.

5. Attitude Counts
I caught Protomartyr twice during the festival: once at the aforementioned Hardly Art/Sub Pop show, and again the next night at Death by Audio. Vocalist Joe Casey’s anti-charisma contrasts with his penchant for bleak lyrics. There’s a sense of daring you; there’s a sense of wondering where exactly this is all going, and it’s intensely unpredictable. At Sunday’s in-store, Dark Blue singer-guitarist John Sharkey III caustically bantered with the audience, making the whole thing feel that much more unpredictable.


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