Thursday, November 18, 2010

NYC & CMJ (October 22, 2010)

  Braids @ Cake Shop, NYC: photo by Michael Ligon

Ok it's been about a month since coming back from my 5-day long stay in New York City and I still have a couple of days to cover, so I do apologize if these next few posts seem rushed, because well they are. Day four started out with me packing as I unfortunately I had to check out of the Jane Hotel as I was unable to book it for the next few nights, but before checking out I took it as an opportunity to stroll and bike around area which later I'd find out is called the Meatpacking District given its origins at the beginning of last century as home to 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants and nowadays gentrified with boutiques, restaurants, lounges and even an Apple Store. I also got to stroll through the High Line. Other areas of NYC explored this day included Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village, the Kimmel Center at NYU, the Broadway shopping district including the Strand Bookstore (which bills itself as "Home of 18 miles of New, Used, Rare and Out of Print Books"), Union Square (which itself has a history as a site of political activism and on this day the site of the "October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation") and then it was back to Brooklyn to take in part of the day show at the Knitting Factory. Later I'd trek back to the Jane Hotel to pick up my luggage, head over to the Chinatown hotel where I'd been staying for the next few nights, grab some Chinatown eats and then head out for night four of CMJ. And I stil had one more day/night of NYC/CMJ to do.

And at this point I guess I should run down my CMJ happenings on this day but I'll keep it brief since I really I don't have the strength to do do an in depth review. Back in Brooklyn late afternoon, my first stop was Knitting Factory to catch Diamond Rings' set, this being the second time I'd catch Jon live during CMJ. Without the technical difficulties which plagued him during his set at Cake Shop a few days earlier, it was a much more fluid but still brief set. Sporting a Toronto Blue Jay Cap this time around, Jon alternated between keyboards, and guitar, and occasionally busted some enthusiatic, spastic dance moves. Although, the response was appreciative in the spacious(compared to Cake Shop), though only partially filled venue, I still wished the crowd had shown a little more energy.

I decided to stick around for a few more acts, with local Knitting Factory roster band Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers up next. The least 'indie rock' of the bands / artists I saw during the festival, while there were signs of some fans in the crowd, they didn't seem to correct with much of the crowd. I'll admit they do possess some musical merits, especially in the full-throttled vocals of Ms. Shilpa Ray. Instrumentally, Ms. Ray's harmonium playing lays a foundation for the rest of the band who competently contributed guitar, drums and bass. Elements of blues, folk and rock weaved their way through the band's songs so I'm hard-pressed to really categorize them. They weren't really up my alley but if it means anything to you, Nick Cave is a fan, so much so that he invited her and her band to join his band Grinderman for a few recent tour dates. Toronto wasn't one of them, but Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers will be in Toronto in the new year for a set at El Mocambo on April 8 according to The Windish Agency.

With still a little light out this early evening in Brooklyn, I decided to stay for one more act at Knitting Factory which was Wisconsin's Cotton Jones. Forming the core of the band is Page France alum Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw. Nau's and McGraw's vocals melded nicely, with the latter's sweet vocals adding a nice contrast to the former's laidback drawl. The band did have a nice, rustic, indie-folk quality, embellishing their tunes with, instruments like banjo and glockenspiel. The band's current album "Tall Hours in the Glowstream" is out through Suicide Squeeze and the band will be in Toronto for a show at the Horseshoe Tavern on February 26 opening for Nicole Atkins and The Black Sea.

With the day's light now dissipating, I headed back into Manhattan to check in to my hotel in Chinatown, grab a quick bite and then head out again for the night portion of CMJ, which I kept decidely low-key (ie. no club hopping this night. I planted myself at Cake Shop for the night (which was hosting a showcase for local Williamsburg, Brooklyn indie record label Kanine Records), getting there before 10 pm and catching only a bit of Pepper Rabbit's set and would catch only two full sets for the rest of the night before calling it quits. Having multiple opportunities during the festival to catch Montreal's Braids and with nothing else that night really interesting me at that time, seeing Braids was a no-brainer. I hadn't heard a note of them prior to that show, but I was quite aware of how keen some of you are of them, so that was my primary motivation to check them out. Combining an experimental approach with more conventional pop and anthemic qualities, think a marriage between Bjork and Arcade Fire. Definitely on the artier side of my musical tastes - if they ever play The Music Gallery in Toronto, I am there. A video of one of the band's performances at Cake Shop during CMJ surfaced on YouTube - really good stuff. They will be playing Toronto in the new year at El Mocambo on February 19 and I very possibly will be there.

And rounding out the night for me was a shoegaze band from San Francisco called Young Prisms. A genre band to the hilt, as shoegaze bands (or bands for that matter) go, they weren't particularly innovative, but their dreaminess was effective nonetheless. Immersed onstage in light and shadow with a video projection playing out against the band for most of the show, these were particularly fitting visuals for the band's hazy, shoegazey, guitar-drenched, pop music. Similarly, the band's vocals, alternating usualy between band member Stefanie Hodapp bassist Giovanni Betteo, were buried beneath the sonic mix, contributing to the overall dreamy, hazy quality of the music. The perfect soundtrack to play in my head as I left the venue to wander the streets of NYC before heading back to my hotel for a good night's sleep.

Photos: NYC & CMJ (October 22, 2010)
MySpace: Diamond Rings
MySpace: Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers
MySpace: Cotton Jones
MySpace: Pepper Rabbit
MySpace: Braids
MySpace: Young Prisms

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