I think this was the 19th CMJ I have attended and though they don’t call it the Music Marathon anymore, it still feels like it. SXSW is like that too, shows all day and night, but when you live in NYC and you’re expected to do work too… you’re running on fumes by the end. There weren’t as many big names this year which turned out to be good. Most of the bands I saw were either entirely new to me, or I’d never seen them live before. Here’s a rundown.
Top Five CMJ Performances
Not only was this the best show of CMJ, it was the best show of 2011 so far. Their first sell-out show in NYC (about 500 more people than when they played Union Hall in 2008), the crowd were going mental for the whole show. As they should: Metronomy make savvy dance pop with high levels of wit and skill and very little attitude. I left the club genuinely euphoric. What a show!
MP3: Metronomy – The Bay
Hollerado – Arlene’s Grocery (Friday Night)
If you miss the days big riff guitar pop, the kind that was all over alt-rock radio in the ’90s, Manotick, Ontario’s Hollerado are doing it with equal amounts of hooks and humor, both of which were on display at the M for Montreal showcase on Friday night. Arlene Grocery kept bands to a strict 25-minute set time via a countdown clock on a big flatscreen beside the soundboard. Hollerado treated it like an action movie, complete with special effects: confetti cannons went off every few moments. And the soundtrack: crank-it-up, top-down scorchers with choruses the size of Lake Ontario.
MP3: Hollerado – Juliette
Radical Dads – Bruar Falls (Saturday Night)
Wild Flag’s show at Bowery Ballroom during CMJ was one of the fest’s toughest tickets. At about the same time over at Park Slope club The Rock Shop, locals Radical Dads were mining similar indie rock territory and I’d say they do it just as well though they’re a lot less hyped. The bloggeratti may not care, but this trio is one of Brooklyn’s best bands right now. Their set at Bruar Falls Saturday night was tight, energized and, though there are ’90s touchstones for sure, totally in the now. They were also bearers of good news: their debut album, Mega Rama, is getting a belated vinyl release in December. Have you seen the Awesome cover art? Also, new single out soon.
4) Street Chant – Public Assembly + Bruar Falls (Saturday)
I wasn’t the only one watching Radical Dads with a giant smile on my face. Street Chant, who played right before, were up from and totally into it, man. Street Chant, three young New Zealanders, are fantastic in their own right — owing a little to their country’s indie rock past and making a lot of it up as they go along too. The songs are great, you can tell they love to play and their drummer is amazing. They were first band on at BrooklynVegan’s day show, a tough slot when few are there, but they did just fine and there was good crowd by the time they finished. The Bruar Falls set was better as people were awake, maybe a little (but not too) buzzed, and ready to hear some music.
5) Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Cameo Gallery (Saturday)
In a world of increasingly awful band names, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosuars is knowingly ridiculous. But the dance music Orlando Higgenbottom makes is sublime, even while wearing a stegosaurus costume as he did late Saturday night, the last performance I saw at CMJ. Cameo was so packed there wasn’t much room to dance, so the audience just sort of bobbed up and down. Sometimes you just gotta make do.
And some other stuff I saw after the jump: