Sunday, October 31, 2010

NYC & CMJ (October 20, 2010)

  The Drums @ Santos Party House, NYC: photo by Michael Ligon

If you look at my photoset for my second day in NYC, you'll see I had a fixation on one aspect of NYC, namely Times Square. As visually spectacular as it was, it's not so much what it was but what it represented for me, namely the diversity and energy that is New York City. I spent a good four hours in the area first taking in a late morning coffee & breakfast at Starbucks and using the free WI-FI there then sauntering around the Square taking photos and absorbing the vibe. Damn, there's a lot of tourists there. If people watching is your thing and your in NYC, you must go to Times Square. Back to the West Village for some exploring, then to the hotel for a late afternoon nap, and later off I was for my second night of CMJ.

One of my favourite new discoveries was Bologna, Italy band A Classic Education playing at Lower East Side venue The Delancey located just shy of the Williamsburg Bridge. Online research has revealed to me that lead vocalist Jonathan Clancy is Canadian born may explain to me why he didn't seem to have an Italian accent when he spoke or sung. There was a sparkling tone to their indie guitar-pop, reminding me a bit of a band like Echo and The Bunnymen. Unfortunatley, I'd only caught about three songs although it was enough for me to make my one and only purchase of the entire festival, their 5-song First EP, in a hand-made cloth CD sleeve.

After a short stop at Other Music, I headed just down the street to get to Ace of Clubs where Canadian electro-act New Look were just about to start. I was impressed by the duo when they played Canadian Musicfest in Toronto this past March, with the irresistibly cool vocals of Sarah Ruba, her subtly effective keyboard arrangements and her cohort Adam Pavao's sumptuous programming and beats. Playing against a white screen backdrop which showed a continual stream of colourful geometric patterns, it was a alot more satisfying visually though harder to photograph, but overall made it a more enjoyable experience. The strapped keyboard slung over Ruba's shoulder while she coyly sung, is one of the sexier things I've seen in a long time. Yes, sometimes music needs to be sexier.

As it turns out, I would spend the rest of the night a bit more Uptown at Santos Party House, a lot of it waiting in line trying to get in to the venue as it was at capacity. As it turns out, I was fortunate enough to get near the front of the CMJ badges line and though they were at that point making even badgeholders pay, I gladly forked over $5[as I'd RSVP before, or else I'd have to pay $10] and got it to catch a few songs of local indie notable Marnie Stern. She definitely had a garage vibe but more often than not expressed a willingness to experiment with vocal phrasing and dynamics. Yes, she is from New York but had I not known that I'd still have thought she felt very NYC - gritty, creative and bursting with energy.

During Marnie's set, she bantered jokingly along the lines about Wild Nothing being up next and hoping for the crowd that they were something rather than nothing. Well, Wild Nothing were definitely something; maybe they should change their name. An unknown entity to me prior, there seemed to be a good number of people in the audience looking forward to them. Wild Nothing, the project of a one Jack Tatum, turned out to be fairly entertaining. They sounded like they came from the same indiepop-school as Brooklynites Pains of Being Pure At Heart, though favouring a slighter cleaner guitar sound most of the time and displaying a slicker level of musicianship. For that latter factor, I sometimes wished the band would loosen up a bit, play rawer, but still they had some great melodies.

For the time I'd been in Santos Party House, I'd never even ventured to the second stage in the basement of the venue, instead sticking it out for the secret headliners of the mainstage who turned out to be buzzy locals The Drums. Caught up in a tremendous amount of press since the beginning of the year, the band had recently played The Mod Club in Toronto which I didn't make it to so to catch them in NYC was a real treat. I'd only previously heard their infectious, though polite-sounding single "Let's Go Surfing" so when the band proceed to turn up the notch during this live set several levels, I was pleasantly surprised. Melodies galore, and tantalizingly succinct guitar lines are the band's main strengths, the band oft compared to The Smiths and Joy Division. As I said, the band really turned it up, seemingly upping the tempos and infusing everything with a good dose of energy. I can't describe lead vocalist Jonathan Pierce's dancing as anything better than prancing; it had a fey quality and felt somewhat affected but hey if that's the way he felt like moving, how can I fault him. At the very least, it expressed how deeply in the moment he was and it really rubbed off on the audience who seemed as energetic as the band were. Excellent way to close off day two of CMJ.

Photos: NYC & CMJ (October 20, 2010)
MySpace: A Classic Education
MySpace: New Look
MySpace: Marnie Stern
MySpace: Wild Nothing
MySpace: The Drums

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