JP's CMJ 2014 Day 1: Vomitface, PC Worship Broken Water, GHXST, Calvin Love, The Mystery Lights, O.J. Pimpson, Dream Police, Echo Bloom

Let the Music Marathon begin.

By: JP Basileo

October 22, 2014

" Maybe it was that some drunk girl leaned over to her boyfriend and said “this guy’s creeping me out” (when I was just standing there, very much in earshot, with a notepad in hand), but I was already beginning to falter. "

This is my first time covering CMJ. I’d attended in the past, but never with an actual agenda. It’s overwhelming from the get-go. Having an under-established or unclear schedule is like being in a life raft with no oars, in the middle of the ocean. Alone. I made an all too familiar mistake from step one, getting in the artists’ line to pick up my press badge. It was a bit of a wait, but I met a cool dude from a band called Echo Bloom, who calmed my nerves (his band's music excels at that too, see track below), as I was afraid of missing the first showcase I wanted to see, only to find out at the end of said line, that I didn’t have to wait at all. The press booth line was just about non-existent, and the performer booth was kind of spilling over, giving the illusion of two separate lines. What the hell. This kind of set the tone for the day.

So I was finally able to pick up my badge. They took my license for verification and handed me a freshly laminated “John Basileo.” I immediately thought I had to find a Staples or a Duane Reade, and buy a Sharpie and replace the John with a scribbled JP. But before I did that, I had to look at all this stuff. The official schedule, the Festival Guide. I had to make sure my pre-formatted schedule matched the official times and locations. Little did I realize this would take me the better part of the afternoon, and I wound up missing the Tell All Your Friends showcase at Baby’s All Right. Or at least I knew I would have missed the vast majority of it, so I opted to stay around the LES and check out the press lounge in the penthouse of The Hotel on Rivington. Nothing makes you feel more worthless than the idea of networking, and the reality of standing in a corner with a drink in your hand, while everyone in the room already knows everyone else and you can’t infiltrate their circles. I left real quick.

It took me way too long to get to Trash Bar. I had every intention of seeing at least two bands before I caught Vomitface, but the goddamned Delancey/Essex M station is so annoying to navigate, I rushed onto the wrong train, clenching nails into the flesh of my palm listening to Rhonert Park by Ceremony on my iPod. Because I was agitated, you know. Anyhoo, I made it. Two shots and two beers later, I finally started to feel at ease. I saw some friendly faces, and caught GHXST’s set: A 3-piece heavy psych-sludge carnival of doomy drop-D galore, with a pleasantly droney girl singer. No bassist, no bullshit, and no matter what variations there were, those low guitar tones always shone through in just about every song.

When Vomitface was setting up, and I saw the colorful spaghetti-eating Satan, painted in light blue with a red head (complete with yellow pentagram on the forehead), on their bass cab, I knew I was in for a good time. They started with their signle, “Sloppy Joes,” for which they just released a music video (see below), and the pace of the set only picked up from there. It was kind of a metaphor for my night: hit the ground running, and you won’t slow down. I’ve seen Vomitface a bunch before. My band’s even played with them a couple of times. And their set list only seems to become more masterfully crafted over time. There were some technical difficulties with an unruly hi-hat, but they were short-lived and really inconsequential in the grand scheme.

That painted Satan must have blessed frontman, Jared’s fingertips. They go from soft plucks to hard strums, without the use of a guitar pick. I’d be bleeding all over myself if I tried that. But something must have gotten into these guys before going on, because they sounded more ferocious than any previous set I’ve seen of theirs, and certainly, their records would not have done this live ambience justice, with Jared going nuts on guitar, and Preetma hitting her drums harder ever before, and Keller’s fuzz-filled sludge ripping bass.

The set could be summed up with, when that hi-hat was at it again, Jared addressing the crowd saying, “Who cares, you don’t know me!” But they cared. You could tell they care about their music through the way they play it. They broke out a new song, more discordant, agitated and all around nasty. The set ended with a furious solo, and Jared selecting me of all people to throw his guitar strap around and playing a violently noisy solo with me in between him and his guitar. He wound up on the floor. I wound up holding his guitar, making sure it was safe. That was fun.

I gave them all kudos and shot a goddamned cab over to Silent Barn (goddamned because I didn’t want to risk wasting more time getting on a wrong goddamned train, and that shouldn’t be a concern. Ever.) to catch an unofficial showcase for Exploding In Sound, where I would see Olympia, WA’s Broken Water, a solo set by PC Worship, and newer outfit, Dream Police (members of The Men). I got there at around 11-something and I was already feeling nice from my whiskeys. Broken Water, whom I’d seen before, blew me away, as they did before. They do psych rock so well and so loud that it makes you wonder why it’s attempted any other way. They played a few songs I didn’t recognize, and took as new, but they were borderline catchy and still ominously heavy. A numbed body was taken, jolted alive, and re-numbed by distorted vibrations and swirling fills.

The solo performance form PC Worship (members of Parquet Courts), was precisely a solo performance: A dude sitting in a lawn chair, playing a tinny-sounding guitar, moaning out his heart. This lawn chair was positioned in the corner of the outside patio area at Silent Barn, and started pretty much immediately after Broken Water finished, so, especially in my mildly inebriated state, I wasn’t the quickest to get out there. But when I did stumble out there, what I saw was heartfelt, and meaningful and pretty. It might have seemed like filler to some (some people were actually heckling the dude, and I just couldn’t understand why, or how), but it was more important. To him, and to me—a guy alone at a show. The last song of his actually got stuck in my head. At least until Dream Police came on.

I could tell right away I was going to like Dream Police. I can’t wait for their debut record. Their drum machine test was so loud and in your face, people flocked back inside just to feel it. The band is a 12-string guitar, bass and keys trio + drum machine. Choral synths backed rock rhythms and extremely infectious guitar riffs, gorgeously layering and blending together, getting louder and lulling everyone to a numbing sleep. There was a beautifully long intro to their set, but you never wanted it to end. Chord progressions were perfect and intense. Their second song included a cellist’s bow on the guitar, a la Sigur Ros, jabbing erratically at first, but then the pretty breaks through, backed by organ sounds, bass throbs and serious tones. The set was cut WAY too short due to power problems. They finished simply, and humbly with “Sorry guys…we’re done.”

So it was around 1:45, and I decided I didn’t have to end my night just yet. The M for Montreal showcase started at 12, and while I missed Honey (whom you shouldn’t miss), I could still catch Calvin Love, The Mystery Lights (also pictured on the big photo on top of this page - not a shot from last night) and O.J. Pimpson. Calvin Love’s set was fun and pretty, not just audibly, but the glassy backdrop lightshow was flickering particularly nicely during their set. It was the catchy indie dance-pop I needed to stay awake. Everyone was bopping and dancing along. One of the songs showed a more weighty, reverb-y side to the guitars, complimenting synths perfectly while the bass popped.

At around the start of The Mystery Lights’ set, all the running around and standing I’d done was beginning to take its toll on my legs, and perhaps my mood. But they started around 2:30, and immediately the energy was kicked right back in, with their frontman wiling out like he was the crazy evil gang leader from The Warriors (I don’t know why, he just reminded me of that dude). He was bouncing and dipping and twirling like it wasn’t the wee hours of the morning. They were incredibly tight—funky fun, trippy—swirling, yet lucid, impressing the pants off me by a sudden seamless tempo change at the end of their second song. The sounds coming from their amps almost embodied a horns section; with twang coming from a 12-string guitar (the second of the night! Exciting stuff!), the drummer holding everything together with intense hits, a second 6-string and bass filling the room, and this weird electronic washboard thing this guy was playing, seated, looked like some futuristic paint board from Bob Ross, adding to the mix.

So now it was 3-seomthing in the morning. Time for O.J. Pimpson. People seemed to flock towards the stage for these guys, busting out all sorts of preemptive dance moves to the funky samba music playing in the interim, almost in anticipation of the R&B funk machine to come. It looked like a damn fun time. But then it hit me. It was 3am. Maybe it was that I’d been running around an on my feet since 10am. Maybe it was that some drunk girl leaned over to her boyfriend and said “this guy’s creeping me out” (when I was just standing there, very much in earshot, with a notepad in hand), but I was already beginning to falter. But they started and it was smooth and cool, and you could tell they loved what they were doing, so I decided to stay. For a little. Some guy whose birthday it was got up on stage to sing what was to be the last song, and I didn’t think I had to stick around for that, so I walked out of there, throwing a middle finger at my creep-status accuser, and shuffled to the L train in the rain. I got in at around 4:40.