Deli Magazine


Running the CMJ Marathon 2012 - Days 3-4 - by Tracy Mamoun
Ninjasonik, Total Slacker, Unstoppable Death Machines, The Shrine, The Orwells + more




To understand how much of a treat this Friday was, I guess it makes sense to first explain how major a let-down Thursday turned out to be. With a tight schedule sorted for the last two stretches, I'd gambled on the fact that, venturing from one venue to the next, I'd eventually find a few good NYC bands to write about, or at least some that worked with the scenes we cover. But no. Not in the slightest. A complete failure.

There were two highlights to the day, I guess. Yet out of some six+ hours running around from venue to venue, that's not much, is it?

The first was Superchunk frontman/songwriter MacMcCaughan, delightfully casual & confident performer, who was playing Mercury Lounge, and treated us to some of the band's classics as well as some new songs. Despite introducing himself as 'not that great a guitar player OR singer', but doing 'both at the same time', he's got a remarkable ability to make one forget that he is alone on stage. Which takes a great deal of work on textures and build-ups, and the capacity to virtually break down the barrier between himself and the audience to make the jam-packed ML showroom feel so very intimate. Hats off to the old punk, he had us all hooked.

The rest of the day was more or less spend drifting from half-assed generic band to dribbling songwriter and back again, so for the sake of sparing anyone the waste of time, I'll just skip right to the end of the evening. Or early night. 

By half one, heading home via Union Square, the whole day had seemed like such a bore that I figured a trip to Webster Hall's hip hop show could only make things better. Only decent idea of the day. On stage, Ninjasonik, Brooklyn-representing partymaking rap duo, who had up there with them not only two DJs to provide the electro/pop/crunk (etc.) beats but half a dozen mates and fellow rappers, some cutting in for a few seconds or a track, others literally just waving their arms around. The good old crew way. Rocking some straightforward hilarious lyrical hooks from 'Gucci diapers' to 'We don't do drugs' and a personal favourite, 'Somebody gon' get pregnant' and a 'make-some-noise' attitude, these guys are a blast to watch. 

That was it as far as Thursday goes. But on Friday, Ludlow Street was a true r&r hub. Shaking, headbanging since 12:30 am in support of the many great bands passing by the stages of Cake Shop and Pianos, by 7pm I was a wreck. But treve de bavardages. There are far too mane bands to mention here to be wasting time.Here's the thing. I literally spent the afternoon switching between one venue and the next, catching ten rock&roll bands – to keep it as generic as possible - by the end of the day sessions. And am not entirely sure how to get through them. Chronologically would be a bore. By genre, too fragmented. So I think the logic of this is simply going to need to be found along the way.  

As the one act that stood out from the high-energy shows on offer that afternoon, Montreal's drone-masters Aim Low, an experimental noise guitar, vocals and effect pedals three piece using the latter as part of the instrumentation, which in my books could have been a no-go, but was in fact supported by a performance dramatic & ceremonial enough to work.

Keeping up with the 'wall of sound'-driven shows, Philadelphia's shoegazing Bleeding Rainbow was, despite the lack of vocals (which is the case with most bands anyway), a good ear-drilling, abrasive act, made quite entertaining by the contrast between a placid female lead and two guitarists on either side of her furiously shaking and banging their heads as they worked through their effect-laden prowesses.

The first act of the day was actually LA-based Kera and The Lesbians (pictured).Despite what they name may indicate, 'the lesbians' are the three boys of the band, with Kera, fronting the band, a most enthusiastic little tomboy crooner with a sharp country voice, singing some punchy garage-folk songs whilst jumping around with her guitar. A great performer.

While I'm going through some out-of-towners, despite them not belonging to a scene we cover (yet!), a short mention of last minute addition to the bill, Canadian extravagant party-punk four-piece Slam Dunk doesn't seem superfluous, for their high-energy set, swinging and breaking down all in one stream, was a true wake-up kick for most people present that early (I.e, around 1:30pm) at the Cake Shop basement. Gap Dream, psychedelic pop rock outfit from Cleveland, definitely diserves a short line too, yet if I'm ever getting to the end of this list, in order to head to our Noisy show at Party XPO, I can't be extending on EVERY SINGLE act. Because really, NO ONE was a letdown. Yet it just kept getting better and better.

Total Slacker, with it's narcotic lo-fi fuzzed-up aesthetic, its cartoon-worthy front duo with guitarist David Tassy surely one of the most entertaining performers of his scene (you really have to watch him to get it); with the hook-filled classics like 'Thyme Travelling High School Dropout' that just about everyone in the room seemed to know by heart and the genuine kindness the band seems to ooze; not so hard to grasp why they're most definitely one of Brooklyn's garage favourites, playing that same evening a sold out Cheap Storage show with King Tuff. 


Moving onto pure engine-driven r&r turf, sporting US flag printed guitar, long hair de rigueur, and just enough cockiness to tease the crowd with, Nashville-based garage band Turbo Fruits (sorry, Turbo mutha fucking Fruits) seems to be the right act to define a transition from the mild side of this day to mindblowing shows on offer. Big on the guitar prowesses, these guys play the kind of fast-rolling, sticky music that, in your standard dichotomy, gives the US a solid step ahead of stiff British tradition as far as crafting delectable solo-fused riff-based treats goes. 

And here we get to the crème de la crème of the day, with first up, cataclysmic power duo Unstoppable Death Machines (should have bought their T-Shirt, looked far too cool), a nerve-wrecking noise-punk tour-de-force built upon menacing riffs and insanely fast smashing drumbeats that threaten to break the sticks or drums themselves any second, with vocals passed through effects via a microphone strapped right onto Mike Tucci's mouth– one of the most satisfying acts caught during the day, yet once again, no surprise there, not much of a CMJ crowd. In comparison to every other band that afternoon, barely a crowd at all, which could, if I don't refrain, take me right back to my old rant about NYC audiences. But then again, in everyone's defense, it was more or less 4pm. 

I'm not sure which one to pick next to be frank. On one side, a band I'd never really listened to so far, missed by giving up on the Vice show queue. that blew my mind, and everyone else's in the room. On the other, The Shrine. Ok, let's start with The Shrine. LA-based pool-skating doctors es fuzz and distortion, these guys have established over the last few years a solid reputation for their loud and furious MC5-style go-hard-or-go-home psychedelic rock&roll taking not one single shortcut to stretch each track to its rightful end. 

Surely the youngest band to hit to stage this year, The Orwells, Elmhurt, IL-based self-defined 'Flower Punk' five piece are fronted by the impressively charismatic young performer that is Mario Cuomo, owning the stage like its rare to see someone own it, especially that early in the afternoon. See, this one's only closing today's recap' because it was the highlight of the day. In reality, they were playing around 2pm. And frankly, in the crowd, we were all just nodding at one another as if to say 'wow, respect''. I don't think there's one of their songs that isn't catchy as hell. And that confidence! Yet due to some faulty cable, the show ended with the band slightly pissed, and despite having literally blown everyone away, promising a better performance for the following day, i.e today. Might not be around to catch them again, we'll see how things go; but no questions asked, these young lads were one of the week's high points.

After all of this, frankly, I was a wreck. Which meant that our Upstairs Mostly Psych stage seemed like a perfect haven of peace, and that is where I spend the next couple of hours, getting to catch Shy Hunters & New Myths as an appetiser, followed by the multi-faceted psychedelia of songwriter Anya Skidan, whose lyrics, unfortunately, one couldn't hear as the vocals weren't loud enough. Or at least I don't believe they were. It is possible that UDM made me partially deaf. Anyway, a delightful cocktail of tropical, reggae and other ukulele-based flavours, ending in some noisy drum-freakout that sent one of the cymbals literally flying across stage. 

Finally, got to see Cultfever a second time 'round too, this one with keyboards, electric guitar and drums (rather than the acoustic guitar&vocals Tuesday jam), which made a completely different impression. Fact is, if Tamara Jafar's voice isn't of those impactive enough to support the whole set by itself, it softly contrasts with the kick of their melodies worked as a trio, finding a solid balance in-between both.

That was it for Friday. Quite a selection, right? At this stage, it seems hard to imagine how Saturday would top that.  




The Deli's CMJ Shows 2012