Tracy's CMJ 2012 Day 5 - by Tracy Mamoun
TinVulva, Bugs In The Dark, Life Size Maps, Eula, The Everymen, EndAnd, I'm Turning Into, Puppies & SLEEPiES (again!)
- by Tracy Mamoun
And finally, we get to the last day of this CMJ fest. Far from tired, I'm in a place where, buzzing off the large amounts of live music I've been restlessly taking in for the last four days, I'm just NOT sure what to do with myself once this is over. Converse might be hard, as one: I've gone partially deaf, and two: all I've been doing all week is chat and shake hands, and I think if I have to say once more 'Tracy from The Deli' I might just die. But before I unplug my brain for the whole of Sunday, time to take you through the final leg of this run. Have been in a bubble now for a few days, and it seems like when the noise stops it's all going to seem OVERLY silent.
The first half of a day, I spent at XPO 929, where we were hosting our last show of the week, with the noisiest bands of our 2012 selection. The afternoon was kicking off with TinVulva, who as Bugs In The Dark singer Karen said, 'kicked ass', spitting out their message to the opposite sex with more spite & strength than you'd ever really expect from these three tiny ladies which, two of which, despite the obvious shortcut of this comparison, you can place somewhere along the lines Kathleen Hanna meets The Amps meets.. the 5,6,7,8's? Is that last one cheap? Does it have something to do with the two Asian frontwomen? Not certain, but there is something in the stage presence that takes me in that direction. However, as a trio, they pulled off a great performance. Definitely one I'd see again.
Second up were Bugs In The Dark, four-piece powerhouse 'sex rock' with an eye set on the finest of the 90s, who despite going for some awkward-ish enamoured bits of performance delivered a great set. No lies, I did during a third of 'Picture' think 'Hey, that's ripping off..?', but as it turns out, it was only a really sick song of theirs lodged deep in a corner of my brain since first listening to the band. A truly impactive live show building up on solid riffs and raucous vocals which Rockower will at some point pour into a megaphone, only to amp-up the noise factor a notch, with a ferocious fist-lifting stage presence. A great act, which the EndAnd guys will aggree with as they've already made plans to share some more bills with the band after this.
Then Life Size Maps came on. Playing as a duo some invasive indie pop/rock built upon a shimmering windy loop which came back on for a couple of the tracks, with some intensely reverberated vocals which the singer kept asking to turn up a notch. Not that there's anything to dislike, but it's just not really my thing, that's as honest as I'll get. Somehow, the balance between either too saccharine a noise-driven band or too noisy a pop band seemed to just not match the degree of straightforward noise-noise delivered by the other bands on stage that day; yet taking into account some high-energy fast-riff efforts and a young singer who was determined to deliver 100% despite a crowd which had begun to slightly disperse, they deserve a certain credit for finding their own way to merge glistening neo-psycehdelic influences with the sounds of guitar&bass. And to be fair, their tracks are most definitely catchy, so for those a little more suited to the sweet side of things, I'm guessing they're probably a winning act.
Next were EULA, one of those bands I wish I'd seen perform before writing them up for the issue, for despite the buzzkill of playing for a small afternoon crowd in such a large space as Party XPO, Alyse Lamb (who, due I suppose to her ferocious attitude, I imagined quite a bit taller) managed to show off a bit of what her stage act is about. For such a tiny lady, she takes up the whole space at ease, pacing up and down from one amp to the next, pinching the far end of her guitar strings to slip some high-pitched noise within the ramble of dissonances and bassey layers. Why did I wish I'd seen them before the issue went to print? Because their live set reveals thrice more impactive a band than the records betray, at some points drifting into shambolic spurts of fast drumbeats & shreds as the show unfolds. Wish I'd actually seen them again later on, to see what they're like once the sun goes down, but as you'll read a bit further down, had some planning issues. That'll be for next time.
First headliners of the show were The Everymen, regarding whom I find myselg more or less in the same case as EULA. Except that I had actually seen them once before this show, but here again, we're speaking of a band about fifteen times more explosive than their first album 'New Jersey Hardcore' or even the more faithful earlier records would let one guess. I heard someone saying they sounded like 'the E Street Band on crack'. And despite the fact that they're nowhere near as tensed-up as the image makes them seem, it is all in all a pretty accurate description of their punk 'big band' frenzies, so here we go, quoting. Remember that Stray Cats song that goes "rock&roll is never too loud"? Well if a four-piece can make noise, imagine what an eight-piece band giving 200% on stage can amount to.
Finally, our second headliners were EndAnd, second King Killer representatives of the day, part of a their own micro-scene of truly talented musicians drifting far from the hype's beaten tracks to find an edge to noise. We got treated to a few songs from their next album, 'Mechanics and Energetics of Stilt-Running', currently being mixed, which sees them diving further towards hardcore punk with this time round barely an ounce of that pop sensibility pointed out in most reviews of their first output.
Legion, my next stop, was most definitely the type of bar I'd never want to hang out in. For the exception perhaps of a 4am/in need of a drink/feeling silly type of situation, in which case listening to Patrick Hernandez's 'Born To Be Alive' whilst sipping red wine out of a whisky tumbler could seem an acceptable option. Let's be honest here for a second. The only reason I headed there was that, reading the wrong page in my notes, I believed Cool Serbia were playing. Instead, the line-up turned out to be a cast of kitschy pop bands. Having in mind a stop at the EISGTCMJ show at Paper Box for a Sleepies night cap at 10:40, why not stay for a couple?
As it turns out, Sleepies weren't playing at 10:40. Damn you guide. But we'll get to that in a minute.
I'm Turning Into (yup, these charming lads), in spite of -fair enough - not exactly breaking ground, bring an interesting touch to their live performance, through which one gets to appreciate the different styles coming together in their album, with one player only risking the guitar solos, but all very space-aware, i.e not hitting the drums too hard or the volume too high, reverberation on the other hand used and abused for some dreamy pop/hazy garage.
Next up, Puppies, who with a name like that... anyway. The frontman/keyboardist takes on perfectly well the role of the endearing quirky kid cracking jokes trying to find lookalikes for the entire cast of the Simpsons in this tiny backroom. With three pretty ladies on bass, guitar and drums, the band plays some smooth-swaying crackly surf pop tickled by keyboard melodies heading towards some slightly grittier garage numbers sounding something like Cassie Ramone meets the BBQ show - to picture some super- saccharine lo-fi skipping jams filled with 'ooh-oohs', that's as good as I have.
Bands aside, I hope I never have to go back to Legion.
But finally, we get to the last gig that was to close the week en beaute. Is seeing the same band twice cheating? Probably. Then again I did catch Foxygen three times, and although one would have sufficed, having god-knows-how met my 'quotes' for the week, it doesn't seem completely silly to compare performances.
So yes, I missed SLEEPiES at Paper Box, but instead, got to see them at the Fuzz showcase, with as full a room as I'd seen them play for. And a 'special stamp' to drink for free as, having lent a hand carrying the snare drum (that was it, literally) upstairs, the lovely girl at the door seemed to believe I had something to do with the band. Which I just went with, obviously. Despite having already snuck in a six pack, which was now no longer an awesome plan but a burden and a half.
Hard to come back on these guys without either repeating myself or going into too much detail, which I am saving for a Q&A to be posted soon. So for now, I'll stick to a couple of comments, starting with the fact that I finally got to hear the Hot Singles played all in one go, which, despite understanding where the hesitation would come from, Feelers, with its sprightly clean-cut punk momentum, tying far less into the new album's aesthetics (or even those of their earlier records) than would Sludge River Mouth, I'd been impatiently waiting for.
Personal highlights aside, there are a few reasons why I seem to find their gigs a sure value, one which to do with WWW working its way between hook-laden hits and destructured raw noise to find an edge to both, where your taste for grit is fulfilled whilst half the room can joyously sing along. Which was the case that evening, as it seems half the people in the room knew the words to every song.
Then, there's also the fact that once you get bored of seeing/hearing as many self-indulgent half-assed noisemakers as I did back in London, substituting for any glimpse of thouroughness, creativity, or craftsmanship for that matter, the more or less guaranteed effect of a fuzz&feedback-driven cacophony, well.. it's a treat to find some young guys who'll take it upon themselves to work on the outskirts of the punk/grunge/noise battlefield whilst using and abusing the same means as the pack to feed one enough dirt to keep things interesting. Know who else is finding it interesting? Julian Casablancas, who turned up to catch their last CMJ performance. Just thought I'd slip that in.
Credit where credit's due, here's a band that has slowly built its niche way beyond the shortcut-led mainstream of today's punk scene, and a definite favourite of these few months in New York City.
So to wrap up, I want a SLEEPiES tee.
Anyway, this last show was a lovely end to a great week. Consistent? Not really. Organised? No. Productive? I've probably seen more acts from Missouri or Ohio than from any scene covered by The Deli. But the ride was a WHOLE lot of fun, so for that.. cheers Paolo!
The Deli's CMJ Shows 2012