Running the CMJ Marathon 2012 - Day 3 - by Josh S. Johnson
Beast Patrol, Thomas Simon, Sewing Machines, JJAMZ, Linfinity, MS MR.
The third day of CMJ is the festival’s Humpday. Once Day Three ends, the festival is already more than half-over. Now that I’m halfway done with running the CMJ Marathon, I feel pretty good about my journey towards the finish line. While my marathon numbers are solid, they aren’t as good as Paul Ryan’s. Of course, Ryan made up his marathon times on the spot, so at least I’m winning in that regard.
First up was Beast Patrol
at the Rockwood Music Hall, who was indeed quite beastly. Led by a fiery pixie for a lead singer in Vanessa Bley, the four-piece band tore through a fast set filled with heavy punk-rock songs. All eyes were on Bley fiercely strummed her guitar and violently grabbed the mic stand. Beast Patrol’s exuberant set almost made up for Rockwood’s incredibly lame one-drink-minimum policy. Almost.
My next stop was the Deli’s Electro showcase at the Delancy. Opening the show was composer extraordinaire Thomas Simon
, who solely manned a vast amount of pedals while riffing on guitar and singing in a low, growling voice. There were so many pedals on stage that Simon could curate his own pedal museum. Or he could just join forces with the Deli’s own Stomp Box Exhibit, held Friday and Saturday at Main Drag Music from noon to 9 PM.
Simon’s intense guitar playing highlighted his performance. His instrument had an ominous, jungle-like sound, as if a tiger would burst through the stage at any moment. The most energizing moments of the set came when the guitar was given the most power. For Simon, heavier is better.
After Simon’s set, I got mistaken for a member of a band for about the fifth time this week. Being confused for a rock star has done wonders for the old self-esteem. Now, if only I could get people believe I'ma an NBA point guard, then both my childhood career aspirations would be fulfilled. How people perceive you is at least half the battle, right? Right? Let’s move on.
Continuing the trend of one-man bands at the Delancy’s upstairs lounge, Max Horwich brought his delightfully bizarre project Sewing Machines
to the stage. Horwich’s set began with a traditional folk sound, followed by the use of loops and other electronic elements, resulting in what has been dubbed as “folk-tronic.” Basically, Sewing Machines sounded like if aliens conquered the West, then adapted and started playing folk music. In that regard, Sewing Machines is the best version of “Cowboys and Aliens” ever.
In addition to some excellent musical stylings, Horwich was also quite the charming stage presence. From the matter-of-fact way he introduced his set as “I’m going to play four songs for you” to his beef with the talky portion of the crowd, Horwich was always compelling. Plus, he used a freaking microphone as a guitar slide, which doesn't beat using a beer can or bottle, but is still pretty cool.
My next stop was the Bowery Electric, where I wanted to check out LA five-piece JJAMZ, mostly because of their drummer, Jason Boesel. Boesel used to be the drummer for Rilo Kiley, a band that is currently in possession of the Theodore Roosevelt spot on my Mount Rushmore of my favorite bands of all time.
Other than Boesel, the main attraction of JJAMZ
was the band’s sassy little spitfire of a lead singer, Z Berg. Led by Berg, the band played that kind of indie-pop where every song sounds like an adorable love song. While JJAMZ was entertaining enough, watching Boesel play drums in a band fronted by a very Jenny Lewis-esque lead singer was a little too close for comfort, so I went up the street to the Lit Lounge to see Linfinity.
I’ll admit, I was initially drawn to Linfinity
because of their name. I still have a small case of Linsanity (now would probably be a good time to offer up a hearty “screw you” to James Dolan), so I wanted to see anything that reminded me of the best story out of last year’s NBA season.
However, Linfinity’s set proved they were much more than an intriguing name. The New York band played indie-dance rock very reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand. Also like Franz, Linfinity’s sound had bite and swagger, courtesy of their rambunctious frontman, Dylan Von Wagner. Von Wagner was the most compelling frontman I saw perform Thursday. His voice was extremely expressive, and every so often his eyes would light up with crazy - although I later discovered that was because he was literally getting electrocuted by his microphone. I guess things like that happen when you play the “Bands of the Budget” showcase. Yet even after the technical problems were resolved, Von Wagner was a forceful presence that could not be denied.
Ending the night was the biggest show I’ve seen at CMJ so far: the mysteriously alluring MS MR
(top picture) at the Bowery Ballroom. I had seen MS MR perform over the summer at Santos Party House, and since then, the band has developed a much more dynamic stage presence. Their stage presence wasn’t bad at Santos, but, at the Bowery Ballroom, it was much more confident and refined.
That being said, any stage presence at all is icing on the cake that is the voice of MS MR’s MS, because, good god, that voice is incredible. See, this is one of the many reasons why it’s so hard to take American Idol and all these other competitive singing shows seriously. MS MR’s lead singer could tear through those shows without even really trying - and did we mention that THEY WRITE THEIR OWN SONGS??? When MS' voice is combined with a powerful drum beat and a commanding stage presence, the result is electrifying.
The highlight of the show was, of course, the band’s first single, “Hurricane.” Even though it was obvious they would close with their most popular song, the song still felt fresh and honest. MS MR was truly awed by the crowd’s more than enthusiastic response, and it was easy to tell that when the band returns to the Bowery Ballroom, they will do so as headliners.
After rocking out to one of the best songs released in the past year, it seemed like a good time to call it a night. With that, I mounted the hump that was CMJ Thursday. Er, something like that.