...And so it begins. Another CMJ Music Marathon is now in full swing, kicking off last night, Tuesday, October 16th in the city that never sleeps (and hardly notices the massive music festival). CMJ, the publication and the festival, has always been primarily focused on new music and up-and-coming bands, and this year's festival is no different.
One of my personal favorite aspects of CMJ (and SXSW for that matter) is the opportunity to see great international bands that rarely make an appearance here in the United States, so it was only fitting I began this year's festival at the New Zealand Music showcase at Le Poisson Rouge.
Popstrangers, a band I first discovered last year during CMJ thanks to their support slot with Royal Baths and Crocodiles. A big fan of the grungy shoegaze dissonance of their 2010 debut EP, Happy Accidents, Popstrangers have been working on the follow up ever since. Antipodes, their full length debut is set for release in February via Carpark Records, and the band used their all too brief CMJ set to play new material. The trio have drastically shifted their sound from their more aggressive roots to a more subtle indie sound that swirls with psychedelic guitar work more reminiscent of Tame Impala than anything Nirvana ever wrote. Awash with reverb and sinewy guitar lines, Popstrangers have focused their melodies into crisp catchy songs with simplistic hooks that float in and out as they perform.
Die! Die! Die! took the stage and immediately exploded from the first brash blasts of noise and there was no looking back. The band were bursting with energy and vocalist/guitarist Andrew Wilson spent more time in the audience than on stage as their agitated post-punk grooved and ripped from the speakers. While the band's rhythmically complex and rowdy music sounded top notch, I couldn't help but feel the overwhelmingly calm audience left something to desire (not to worry, the band are playing Death By Audio tonight with METZ, Roomrunner, and Beasty). Their set seethed and churned as danceable rhythms collided with angular guitars, feedback, and yelped melodic vocals triggering somewhere between Death From Above 1979, Fugazi, and Q and Not U. The guys closed with Form favorite "Wasted Lands," Wilson playing amid the growing audience while drummer Michael Prain and bassist Michael Logie shifted time signatures from the stage above. Die! Die! Die! were fantastic live and I only hope I can catch them again sometime soon.
Next up was Oh My Rockness' official showcase at Brooklyn's Cameo Gallery. I arrived just before Moon King's set, who unfortunately are not my new favorite band. After a few songs came time for Baltimore's Roomrunner, who simply destroyed. Before their set began, guitarist/singer Denny Bowen (former Double Dagger drummer) let the sound guy know he could turn the music back up as they needed a few more moments. As the sound guy began playing Hum's "Green to Me," Bowen excitedly responded with, "Hey, like turn this shit WAY up". Things were off to a good start before they played a note.
METZ. You may have heard of them... you can't go far on these here internets without reading about the band or their self-titled Sub Pop debut. Thankfully, the buzz surrounding their noise punk fury is well warranted, and they made sure to prove that for any skeptics in the audience. Their live shows are always spectacular displays of noise, aggression, and mayhem and last night was no different. The band ripped through songs from the abrasive record as well as their previously released singles, pounding out dense bricks of rhythmic carnage over angular guitar blasts and howling shouts. METZ are like The Jesus Lizard's slightly less demented cousins or Unsane's more cheerful Canadian pals, and the band are ready and able to carry that torch to a new (and all of a sudden) willing audience. The low end is looooow, the bite is mean, and their performance is absolutely solid. Singer/guitarist Alex Edkins moves and shakes like a man possessed, exorcising his demons through vibrant shouting and unbridled energy. These guys are playing a TON of shows this week, be sure to catch them.
DIE! DIE! DIE!: