CMJ Day 2, Wednesday: How did I end up out here?

Post Author: Nate Dorr

When did the CMJ day shows get so completely packed with people? I mean, I expected this of the Fader showcase, later in the week, but not by early Wednesday afternoon. Of course, this year Tuesday was a full-on festival day complete with its own day showcases, and also this is Shugo Tokumaru. The Tokyo-based pop craftsman made his first appearance on U.S. soil just last month at Mercury Lounge, so the clot of people impeding nearly any movement into the Cakeshop’s downstairs (and all hope of a view, it seemed at first) for his performance at the Terrorbird Media showcase may not have been entirely surprising. His spot at Bowery that night was his only other show before continuing on tour, so people understandably had to get their fill of fluttering, intricately simple guitar-and-glockenspiel (and sometimes accordion). I guess it makes sense.

Less comprehensible to my abilities to comprehend, were the crowds that stuck around for Faunts, a relatively perfunctory Edmunton, Alberta indie rock band.

Not that there was anything really wrong with them. I think my relative disinterest is best summarized by this rather surreal comment from a Cakeshop employee: “I’m just bored with bands.”

Fortunately Tobacco appeared next, to finish off my stay in style (i.e. with woozy synth tones and videos that I can only describe as softcore “bubble gum porn”). The fact that solo Tobacco is in no recognizable way different from his usual project, Black Moth Super Rainbow, is underscored by the fact that it’s still drastically easier to find the BMSR myspace, and the Tobacco album is represented there anyway.

And what would CMJ be without the free Fader Fort SoCo drinks?

I have no idea how Fader became so enamoured with syrupy, lividly red Southern Comfort mixers, but the Fort’s drink of choice did serve as a decent accompaniment to the the sleek, actually-much-less-syrupy pop of Chairlift. The MGMT-remixed, iPod commercial-featured Brooklyn three piece responded to their mounting celebrity by… opening their set with a new song in French. Otherwise, still just pop music tracing out the clean, smooth lines that the band’s live show always displays.

There followed an interval during which I picked up my badge and sought the promised free food at the Red Bull space in SoHo. There was no food. There were, however, lots of weird promotional booths. Other people have much better things to say about this than I do (tacos?! where?). This actually caused me to miss School of Seven Bells, much to my chagrin, so instead I headed across the river to the free outdoor show being thrown by Entertainment4Every1 and Todd P by the Williamsburg Bridge.

After catching about 30 really good seconds of the Sisters set (mental note: good Siltbreeze-ish lo-fi two-piece, check again later), Coathangers took the stage. I had encountered the Atlanta band for the first time just the night before, and they continued to impress with a blazing set of era-bridging no-wave riot grrl punk rock. Further mixing things up, there’s one song with a piano intro that I swear could have been the tension-building intro music for an 80s soap opera. Yeah, that good. I had to take off during Crystal Antlers, just after.

When I first unloaded all my photos from Irving Plaza, I thought for a second I’d been shooting on the set for an iPod commercial and somehow forgotten about it. But no, that’s just Flying, caught in weird primary color monochrome. I hate being at the mercy of heavy stage lights. Fortunately, being all green or red or purple can’t effect sound, and Flying continue to sound really good these days. Wandering uncertain emotional terrain somewhere between comforting warmth and eerie uncertainty (I liken it the friendly scary monsters of Where the Wild Things Are), the band has revamped some of the older songs for their tour with Deerhoof. The classic “Minors” seems transformed into a sort of wah-guitar driven march with new chords behind the chorus, while old tricks like warbled samples played back into the mic via dictaphone and erratic, while clamoring drum passages continue to be in effect.

Experimental Dental School bridged the gap to Deerhoof well: sort noisy, sort of catchy, sort of dissonant, sort of pop, often all at the same time. Lots of dynamics, and quick change-ups from tranquility to spaz break things up nicely.

With the addition of Edward Rodriguez, Deerhoof is a four piece again. While this allows the original layered guitar parts of songs like “Spirit Ditties of No Tone” to function normally for the first time in a while, it also reintroduces a slight layer of clutter that was stripped away for a few years by the necessities of being a three-piece. With only guitar, drums, and intermittant bass, Deerhoof had a tightened clarity that allowed the full play to the timbral weirdness of John Dieterich’s lancing guitar distortion, the resounding clatter of Greg Saunier’s drums, the high clear trill of Satomi Matsuzaki’s voice. Not that this is diminished, there’s just a little more distraction in the mix with another steady instrument. The new selections of jerky guitar-pop from Offend Maggie, getting one of their first live unveilings in NYC, fit smoothly among the past works from The Runners Four and Friend Opportunity, but also didn’t especially stand out, at least not the way past tracks like “Spirit Ditties” and “+81” did. All told, though, they seemed more recognizably like a rock band than ever before.

Back across the river, I ended my night about as far from the lights of the real CMJ showcases as possible, in a dive beneath the Williamsburg Bridge called Rocky’s Rock Star Bar. The place has mermaid statues and air hockey. It has a weird fake cave overhanging a booth in the back. It didn’t have many patrons. And a noise show was underway, fortunately running late enough that I was able to catch several acts despite arriving only just before midnight. While I was drawn in by promise of a reformed Blectum from Blechdom the show was really stolen by Kevin Blechdom’s current Barnwave project.

Blectum from Blechdom themselves seem to have drifted, with intervening years of breakup, away from the loping carnival gabber I most associate with their older work, the tumultuous spirit of which now seems to rest mostly with Erickson/Blechdom’s charismatic performances. Rather, Blevin Blectum’s (Bevin Kelley) comparatively (and only comparatively) reserved