Today we're taking a look back at the tsunami of music that hit New York, and picking out our five favorite moments of the festival. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but most of these were on our radar a long time ago. Let's take a look at five of the most promising live music sets to make their mark on New York City last week.
Best of Show: CMJ 2010
Sun Airway Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 Friday Oct. 22nd
Usually the words "no guitars, just synth, effects and vocals" coupled with an endorsement from a notable snob-hub, is the perfect storm of urging me to hit the delete key. Scratch all those predispositions, Sun Airway, from Philadelphia, is the washed out pop band I've been waiting for through the trying times of chill-wave from kids with too much free time. Jon Bathmus and Patrick Marsceill, both formally of the emo band the A-Sides did an interview with Pitchfork where they compared Sun Airway to Animal Collective, which is a fine comparison, but I'd argue the pop chops of Airway's debut Nocturne Of Exploded Crystal Chandalier
is as good as Merriweather Post Pavillion
if not better, and it took AC nine years to figure out no one wanted to hear ambient improvisation for fifty minutes (unless they look like they work in a coffee shop). Sun Airway brought an air of knowing to the ambient front, with meticulous precision to each jam, injected the room with a fuzzy coating of noise that couldn't quite obscure the pearl of pop that rests in every song. Unlike it's CMJ buzz counterpart in 2009, the snooze button known as The XX, this show delivered on its hype and then some. Revisiting the recordings after having experienced Sun Airway in person, it's obvious were dealing with one of the Cinderella stories of CMJ. No BS, the glass slipper fits these guys and we can't wait to hear more. Nocturne Of Exploded Glass Chandelier
is out now.
First Aid Kit Rockwood Music Hall/The Delancey Thursday Oct. 21st
Somehow "sloppy" began to equal "cool" in Brooklyn, and suddenly everyone with a distortion pedal and reverberated vocals can be a buzzy band. Musicianship is an art often left to the seasoned pros and the painfully antiquated. We say screw that. Enter First Aid Kit, a sister duo from across the Atlantic, who at 19 and 16 put most of the CMJ roster to shame in terms of attention to detail, professional demeanor, and damn good songs. The sisters write melodies that feel heart-wrenchingly deep, and channel a sort of mystique in their lyrical simplicity that just feels false in other folk acts. And the harmonies, floating above their command of their instruments, are impossibly perfect. If you've ever wondered how to get a room full of people to suddenly gloss over in a trance of fixated disbelief, put these two up on the stage and let them do their thing. Their record The Big Black and The Blue
, worked on and produced in their own home with their father, confirms their promise as a deeply personal act. Their Rockwood performance left most of us giddy and slack-jawed, and we're hoping you feel the same when the video drops on the site.
Blood Red Shoes Bowery Electric Saturday Oct. 23rd
You'd think a stampede was happening when these two take the stage. Blood Red Shoes take their punky British attitudes and channel them into the music they make. Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell create a wall of sound worthy of Queens of the Stone Age, with a formation as sparse as The White Stripes. While Jack and Meg (used to) make minimalist art, these two have a sound fit for the arena. Considering the impressive repertoire of their 2010 record, Fire Like This
, that's exactly where we think they are heading. Their set was aggressive to say the least, as the pair walked off, we noticed them heaving like they had just run a marathon. It just doesn't matter the time of day or the size of the room, these guys crush it everytime. And a band that can electrify the stage at any hour is driven enough to take over in any country. I'll admit I was skeptical of their reputation; watching Steve sleep on some gear before the sound check wasn't the best first impression of their pomp. But nothing else matters but the show, and these two put one on for the ages (and coincidentally, they are just really great people to chat with). Blood Red Shoes play with the fervor of giants like Foo Fighters even though many Americans don't even know their name ...yet. Keep your eye on these two.
Everest Rockwood Music Hall/The Mercury Lounge Thursday Oct. 21st
A band whose well weathered members have racked up years of due payment gigging with the likes of Sebadoh, Earlimart, Great Northern, and The Watson Twins, Everest came a calling for a fleet of performances over the course of CMJ. A tempered down acoustic performance during our Rockwood Sessions showcased songs from their Neil Young endorsed album On Approach
, conjuring rustic images of long lost, Laurel Canyon kind of days. It was enough to thoroughly whet my appetite for a second showing later that evening, when the band assembled a more full bodied formation for a gig at The Mercury Lounge. Though their 45 minute set was far too skimpy for my tastes, their tried and true, three guitar stab at the fundamentals of American Rock and Roll proved as thrilling as my very first encounter with My Morning Jacket...whom they would take the stage in support of two nights later at Terminal 5. Sweetening the deal, leading man Russell Pollard is as nice as they come in this business, and drummer Davey Latter and bassist Eli Thomson win king of the rhythmic mountain with their dazzling, synchronous might, leading me to later tell their manager, "I think you have a monster on your hands". True to their name, expect massive things from this impressive LA outfit in the months to come. -David Pitz
Lissie The Hiro Ballroom Friday Oct. 22nd
Very few musicians could let a tequila-guzzlin' belch fly through a pair of PA speakers and have it somehow seem endearing. But that's Rock Island IL's pride and joy Lissie for you. Her personality has always been bigger than the jumbo jet that brought her, guitarist Eric Sullivan and bass/acting drummer Lewis Keller to town. This was a big 'ole gig that almost didn't happen, as Lissie recently had to cancel a hefty string of dates due to doctor's orders. But for NY/CMJ, the show went on, with Lissie showing zero sign of any vocal discomfort at she churned through songs from her recently released album, Catching a Tiger
. On that record, the massive hooks and surprising pop finish sound just a bit bigger than the trio's live alignment (nothing adding a traditional drummer couldn't address), but that's just fine for now. Sullivan's double duty on the bass and drums (a kick, a hat, a snare trigger) is impressive, and Lissie's far to charming to ever lose an audience. Plus, a duet with opener Dylan LeBlanc on Townes Van Zandt's "Waiting Around To Die" (learn the lyrics Dylan! he was reading 'em on his blackberry) provided a modern take on a tune by one of the best songwriters ever. Not too shabby. A bit premature, but perhaps we'll one day be saying the same about this freckled face beaut from the great state of Illinois. -David Pitz