If you are really a music listener then much of the criteria used for judging a performance at CMJ are not authentic. The controversy about the application process is equally troubling.
1. To be fair to the bands; the sound checks are almost non-existent, and the amount of time to play is very short. There is little time to get into the groove.
2. Seeing a band with an audience of fifteen or less is not the greatest way to judge their ability, musicians often feed off the energy of an audience and play off that dynamic.
3. Some groups are road veterans and are always relaxed and no big deal another show of many.
4. Some are locals, so just hoping a cab and meeting band-mates with their instruments is not too stressful. While others travel to perform at these events, in the hope of catapulting them into a new category of exposure.
5. Then there are different performers like bands with local fans. Seeing them in this setting is great but in the area of judgment an unfair advantage.
6. Solo and acoustic performers need an exclusive venue for listening.
7. Finally there are bands that have been hyped beyond their current capabilities, they are bound to disappoint.
I have read much of the coverage of the anticipated main events and of the lesser known acts as well, only to realize that writers are fast to judge and quick to tear down what they have spent so much time hyping. For instance an act like Dan Deacon who has received a slew of press and many new opportunities. I’m sure he is aware of some of the problems created by his insistence to perform on the floor of the venue rather then the stage. It is a difficult situation to change midstream, especially when riding on success that has been a long effort. To change what has been working, is difficult and takes time and thought. He also has a philosophical bent being both a performance artist and composer.
The band Cut off Your Hands traveled from New Zealand and booked many shows so that they could gain exposure and distribution of their recordings in the states. They went for it and took a risk; they certainly got their name out there.
I truly understand the reasoning behind un C. Em. J. music Fest, 07 alternative events catering to the under 21 crowd with good music taste, who are basically shut out from attending many of the shows offered by CMJ. The curated Blogger shows present another alternative. Many of the Bloggers staged events to give exposure to bands they have seen and enjoyed, so that others from across the country have the same opportunity.
I wish I lived in closer proximity to Manhattan. Within the year that will all change but for now, driving for over an hour and parking, present obstacles.
I made my outing to two venues The Gothamist House and The Indaba Loft. Both low-key free events.
People might find it strange but I love the band o’death and I love Peasant. It was nice to see Peasant perform before a small attentive crowd and just here his beautiful voice without any distractions. He followed o’death and most of the crowd walked out before his set. I think that is too bad. It is difficult for acoustic solo performers without a band, because people expect instant gratification and theatrics over substance. His voice and song arrangements are beautiful, sincere and tender and might seem foreign to an older cynical listener.
To see o’death while sitting on a couch sipping a sparkling water with a twist of lime presented a predicament. I didn’t sit for long. I loved seeing them play in such an intimate and cozy setting. Instantly their style of Appalachian punk with elements of diverse composition altered the surroundings. They played two new songs that sounded wonderful. It was a nice treat to see a tuba player in the mix adding additional flavor to their original and invigorating sound.
Cut Off Your Hands played very loud power pop punk, with emotive vocals that sounded like a mixture of the Cure and Cursive. Seeing them just felt out of place in a small venue during the day. It was as if they were performing for a stadium. Watching the lead singer posturing and
going through MTV video antics, made me chuckle. I still enjoyed their lively 4 song set.
Indaba was very friendly and relaxing, it really felt like a party. The crowd was getting too comfortable talking, so when Natalie Prass finally arrived for her set after being delayed in traffic, the audience just couldn’t stop. That was unfortunate because I really liked what I heard, even with a backing band it was an acoustic sound, so the outside noise couldn’t be drowned out. She has an interesting vocal range, and reminds me of Fiest and alt. country great Patty Griffin. Her song arrangements were also quite nice. I Look forward to hearing more.
I came to Indaba to see Beat Radio, I really like Brian Sendrowitz song writing and have seen him solo acoustic once before. I’ve been meaning to see the band for a while. I’m happy I did. The sound is very powerful and rich live. There are no rough edges. The music is not slick, it is real and the musicianship and collaborative spirit of the group is a pleasure to witness. The smart and memorable lyrics are melded into a sonic mix of finger picking, electronic echoes with an upbeat pulse. My notes read....................
Power house Phil Jimenez on keys and Guitar. They’ve got chops!
In both venues I found the CMJ networking annoying, like reading while someone is performing a few feet away, or talking really loud and not stopping even when there is a quiet moment on set. I think most of networking can be done between acts. Maybe my networking is more limited but I got a lot accomplished and received an awesome EP from Jukebox The Ghost. I will see them soon!
I ended the evening at the Pink Pony. They have the best reasonably priced home cooking, great atmosphere and jukebox. I drove home listening to Peasant’s Three song promotional recording looped all the way. Ahhhh …….Work the next day. Wake up at 6:00.