CMJ DAY 3: TWO ROADS DIVERGED

by kevin

For Day 3 of CMJ I took my own path, exploring the anti-CMJ faction of this week-long fest. Like all good festivals, sometimes the best shows can be found on the fringes. And no one knows how to master the fringe like Todd P.

You should be familiar with Mr. P by now if you live in Brooklyn. He throws every great underground, warehouse, rooftop, outdoor indie-underground show you can think of. At 6 o’clock last night, I left my apartment under the cool shield of twilight, stars glistening to life above my head, and hoofed it down to the Williamsburg Bridge, where P. had arranged a showcase of firecracker bands demolishing tunes like wrecking crews knocking down abandoned buildings.

BLACK RICE BY WOMEN:

LITTLE TOYS ON A SHELF BY THE PHARMACY:

By the time I arrived, The Pharmacy was shilling their Unicorns-style ramshackle pop tunes while the clack of the JMZ train rushed behind them. They were quickly followed by New Zealanders Die!Die!Die!, a fearsome trio of down-under post-punkers, powered by the gymnastic bassist’s rollicking, fuzzed out bass lines. Half the time, the lead singer was running through the crowd, screaming at the top of his lungs, while his guitar sat on stage, feeding feedback into a gaggle of loop pedals and processors.

The finale was local heroes Aa (also known as Big A, Little A) a tribal, rhythmic celebration that echoed nicely off the bridge behind them. Four members, three of them primarily playing drums, while the fourth played occasional keys, but mostly fed vocals through his lap top to create android squeals and cyborg screams. The effect was that of a futuristic drum circle on the face of mars, or robots chanting folk songs addressed to their creators. Like fellow noise makers in the San Diego scene, it was all about the energy, and it was that energy that kept us warm as dusk became night and the temperature dropped.

I snagged a couple paper-bag road beers from a nearby bodega, and hit the dustry trail to Don Pedros, a South Williamsburg joint located by the JMZ. We had come for two reasons: Free SoCo (gross) and one of the best line ups of the festival, starting with Women, followed by The Muslims, and capped off by Vivian Girls and LiveFastDie. It was an aggressive, fast paced, post punk revival the likes of which I’ve never seen. The sugary-sweet shots of Southern Comfort belied the show’s sadistic sourfaced punch.

SUCH A JOKE BY VIVIAN GIRLS:

I BELIEVE IN NOTHING BY VIVIAN GIRLS:

I’ve got to take a moment to talk about Women. Not having heard much of their output before tonight, I am officially a full-fledged fan. Their show started sloppy, and tightened up with every song, climaxing with the spot-on, pitch-perfect Devo cover “Blockhead,” one of my favorite Devo tunes. Talking with the guitarist afterwards, we chatted about the brilliance of Brian Eno and David Byrne, and how the group was influenced by their early years as a Math Rock band. It’s this Math Rock precision, coupled with the utter disorder of the 80′s punk/indie touchstones that they obviously love, that gives them a unique style, and separates them from other retro-happy throwbacks.

I talked yesterday about my love of The Muslims. Nothing’s changed, except tonights show was a little tighter and the audience was a lot bigger. “Wow, I do like the Muslims!” someone behind me exclaimed. Their friend replied “I’d give them an A minus. That was great.” Looks like the boys got a few new fans.

The Vivian Girls took the stage next, and were met immediately with mic problems. Actually, the entire PA system kept konking out, and I felt bad for the ladies, but they rolled with the punches, laughed it off, and kicked more ass than their testosterone-fueled brethren. Playing tunes from their recent self-titled disc (which has been in heavy rotation on my iPhone for weeks) as well as a few newbies, their live sound struck me as more immediate, more traditionally hardcore than it sounds in recorded form. The heavy levels of distortion they used to puncture my eardrums last night comes off more like heavy, My Bloody Valentine style reverb on the album. Which makes me wonder: Which band is the real Vivian Girls? Personally, I like them both, but would love to hear these songs recorded in a rawer, more live sounding arrangement than we’ve got so far.

LiveFastDie took the stage, but I was outside, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, chatting with the guy from Women, and watching four dudes get into a fist fight. Maybe it was the unashamed rock and roll, or maybe it was the open bar of So Co, but people were getting fiesty. I headed home, stopping at Hana for an egg and cheese, and was in my bed by 2 in the morning, a comparatively early night for this festival. I needed my rest, though, as tonight I see Broken Social Scene at Brooklyn Masonic Temple. I’ll have a full report on that, as well as any other shows I sneak into tonight, tomorrow, same QC time, same QC channel.

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