CMJ 2007
October 2007;

Let me preface this with a few words of advice. If you ever find yourself uttering the following: "Oh, sure, I can totally do a 45-hour 9 to 5 workweek and go see 2 or more shows each night," have a friend alert you to the absurdity of this statement. Unless, of course, you are inclined to imbibe something a little more serious than Red Bull. I am not inclined as such. Add the hellishness of navigating the Lower East Side, and you've got one frustrated girl in her business casual, pushing through the swarms of ironic outfits with a set jaw. Regardless, we've got some notables, folks!


{Act Most Likely to Actually (Not Ironically) Be From the South and Actually Be Brothers}

The Felice Brothers, 10/16/07, Southpaw

Before the band's set, lead singer Ian Felice treated us to some solo songs, accompanied by his wife on keyboard. A distinctly male-dominated crowd at Southpaw were quite appreciative and assailed her with marriage proposals, which were largely ignored... who woulda thought? Harmonica and acoustic guitar matched with gritty, down-home vocals conjured up images of Wilco and other bands that have managed to fall into the coveted genre of "alt-country." Enter the rest of the Brotherhood, kicking it up a notch with some accordion and a drum'n'bass backbone. I wouldn't be the least surprised to find this band drinking and smoking on the porch, but I was pleasantly taken aback by how much I enjoyed this show. Note to the fakers: this genre only seems to work if you drink too much and aren't from New York, but here's an exception. Please recognize. Quote of the evening: "I've got a joke... it's nice and clean. Why did the scarecrow win an Oscar? ... Because he's outstanding in his field." Ba-dum-CH.


{Act Most Likely to Unsuccessfully Channel Kathleen Hanna}

Marnie Stern, 10/17/07, Blender Theater

After experiencing the hype surrounding Marnie Stern, I was incredibly disappointed to find myself the target of a complete vocal assault. A girl with an electric guitar is generally a fantastic idea in my book, but I couldn't get over the screeching quality of her voice, and this is coming from a huge Bikini Kill fan. Don't worry, I get the irony. The fact that her band seemed a little confused as to why they were on stage did not help matters, false starts and all. I must be getting too old for this. After the set, I was totally chagrined to hear her talking to someone in a voice several pitches lower than her singing pipes. Go natural, girl!


{Act Most Likely to Make Me Abruptly Leave a Showcase}

Mika Miko, 10/17/07, Blender Theater

Again, I am a huge proponent of any and all things Riot Grrl. Loud guitars, screaming, the works. These girls had everything but the slicing, empowering feeling that makes it truly great. Instead, a distinct rumble emanated from the crowd as the set progressed haltingly, punctuated by the band's passive-aggressive jabs at the sound and lighting, which included threats of lawsuits if any flashing lights were used ("One of us has epilepsy... I'm not gonna say who... but... yeah.") Charming. For a label I admire so much (Kill Rock Stars), I was totally disappointed with this choice for a lineup, and thus ended my KRS evening.


{Act Most Likely to Take Up Residence In An Early-'90s Coffeehouse}

Speck Mountain, 10/18/07, The Knitting Factory

Taking the stage at 7:58 PM, Speck Mountain played to a small crowd of devoted music-biz types, because the casual badge-wearers sure as hell weren't showing up till the headliner. A soothing, mid-range female voice perfectly rounded out the clean and simple guitar-driven set, which unfortunately did not capture the attention of a crowd more concerned about grabbing another Newcastle. Still, I would put this band's record on late at night and be a little less sad about the demise of Galaxie 500.


{Act Most Likely to Morph Into a 14-Armed Instrument-Wielding Supercreature}

Le Loup, 10/18/07, The Knitting Factory

I admittedly get excited every time I see anything besides a guitar onstage in a band's setup, but Le Loup went above and beyond my wildest dreams in terms of how many people/instruments they crammed on that little stage. These kids are talented, not only in their ability to hand off instruments like it ain't no thang, but also in their seamless genre switches, seemingly with every song. Ranging from heavily orchestrated and tragically gorgeous to a two-step prominently featuring a banjo, it becomes clear that in order to be a member of Le Loup, one must play at least three instruments and appreciate absolutely, uh, every kind of music ever. Exactly what I needed to forget I had only slept four hours the night before.


{Act Most Likely to Have Band Drama}

The Papercuts, 10/18/07, The Knitting Factory

Aside from being a little uncomfortable about being eye-level with the guitarist's extremely tight pants, I was happy to see an organ being toted onstage for The Papercuts' set. Unfortunately, I got a diva vibe from the lead singer/keyboardist right away, which I feared would sour the rest of the set for me... and even more unfortunately, I was right. After spending more than ten minutes on a soundcheck, a song ground completely to a halt, followed by a hissy fit directed at the soundboard from the lead singer. This made me much less receptive to the gloomy, horrorshow feel of this band, who would otherwise produce excellent David Lynch soundtracks. NEXT!


{Act Most Likely to Inspire Accordion Fetishes}

The Bowerbirds, 10/18/07, The Knitting Factory

I'd seen the Bowerbirds open for The Mountain Goats in Brooklyn about a month before, which I enjoyed, but this time I found myself wishing I was sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, listening to their record instead. However, I'm sure that there were members of the audience who had not yet been exposed to the medieval beauty of this band, who employ only an accordion, a violin, a nylon-stringed guitar, a huge bass drum that one must straddle rather suggestively to play, and melodic, wavering vocals à la Devendra Banhart. Either way, I hoped it would at least inspire some audience members to go buy their album (Hymns For a Dark Horse), 'cause I consider it a worthy investment.


{Act Most Likely to Restore My Faith In Pretty Much Everything}

His Name Is Alive, 10/18/07, The Knitting Factory

A friend asked me, "You saw His Name Is Alive? They're still making records?" Ridiculously enough, I wasn't familiar with this band before seeing them, but holy god, I've been missing out. "Lost in her eyes" took on a whole new meaning as soon as Andy FM fixed her intense stare on the fading audience and the band began handing out jingle bells for everyone to play. Sticking mostly to their recent release, Xmmer, the set careened from heart-stopping, insanely exquisite walls of pump-accordion, soft jangling bells and soaring violin, to a boot-stomping ragtime number, all iced with FM's intoxicating, angelic voice. Band founder Warren Defever whips out a Flying V, and I'm totally okay with that, as we're suddenly smacked in the face with some good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. From chaos to shoegaze in two seconds flat, I can easily say His Name Is Alive pulled off the most perfect set of the evening. Sure, FM looks possessed for most of it, but I bet it's by something fabulous.


{Act Most Likely To Receive Scant Coverage Due To My Need To Sleep}

St. Vincent, 10/18/07, The Knitting Factory

John Vanderslice once said he "would buy stock in Annie Clark," and it seems others are echoing that sentiment, as the Knitting Factory was packed to the brim, a stark difference from the scant crowd at 8:00 PM. As her setup went on well after 1:00 AM, I agonized over the hour-long subway ride back to Queens and only managed to make it through a song and a half. However, I have seen a full set of hers (touring with John Vanderslice, of course), and I can credibly tell you that if you had a quicker trip home that night and hadn't already been standing for 4+ hours, there would be no reason to leave. Aaand scene.


And thus ends my account of CMJ 2007. The next night, I accidentally went to a non-CMJ show: The Section Quartet, who play string quartet arrangements of Radiohead and the like. Beautiful, but unfortunately, will have to garner their own review. Don't take's show tags as gospel; lesson learned. On Saturday, I attempted to see Jesu and Torche at the Blender Theater, but my ears were already ringing from the week of shows, and I was warned it would only get worse once I stepped inside. After being deposited in the middle of nowhere (read: There are parts of New York City that still look pretty Taxi Driver) by an errant F train at 12:30 AM and then traveling further to find I had missed Band of Horses, I gave up. I'm keeping my day job, if only to ensure that next year I can take those three days off as well as supply myself with the essential case of Red Bull. I repeat: lesson learned.

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