JP's CMJ 2014 Day3: Girl Tears, Mega Bog, Dinner, Widowspeak, Bailiff, The New Tarot, The Teen Age, Charli Bliss, Low Fat Getting High

JP hits the Captured Tracks and Deli showcases

By: JP Basileo

October 27, 2014

This festival rules and it's integral for NY music.

Hey! I actually got out of my house before 2! Progress, man. I suppose I stopped drinking early enough the night before that it made for a somewhat conventional nights' sleep, odd hours. I woke up to a barrage of text messages from last night. My phone had died and I was playing catch-up on my life while trying to make it to Baby's for the Captured Tracks unofficial day party. Jesus I think this thing's starting to take a toll on me. I'm uncharacteristically writing  this on the fly, on my rejuvenated telephone, trying not to fall behind. Or asleep. 

I showed up in time to catch THE very last song of Girl Tears' set. It was short, fast and loud. And I was annoyed it was THE last song. My timing during CMJ has just been the pits.

So! $3 High Life! What? Now it's $5!? Fuck that. OK I'll have one. $6 shot and a High Life combo!? No way. Not if I want to live to write this.

It was difficult now to watch Seattle's Mega Bog with anything but a smile on my face. They looked like they were having such a good time, quirky and fun, and comedic geniuses. Told my favorite joke I've heard in some time.

"What do you do when you see a fireman?"

"Put it out, man."

Now. For the music. It was nice to see a more classic band setup, with guitars, a bass, and a drum kit. No keys. All due respect to your keyboard player, but I appreciated the break. The bassist was bopping and dancing nonstop. The bass combined with drums got into your knees and made you dance. And then they grounded you with subtle breaks. Resonance in stillness. It lets it sink in. Aural guitar tones came into play for a slower song; a more subdued pop. Then came this weird Santana-sounding tune (the guitarist was excellent), riffing and flowing beautifully, going from single note progressions to flourishing chords. It gave the sound a fullness.

Then came Dinner, even though I'd just eaten lunch (ha!). No ha. This guy floored me. A one-man dark, dancy, Danish electro-pop hypnosis show. I say hypnosis because of the so-called banter. He addressed the crowd repetitiously as "my dear friends," and insisted that we relax. "Listen to the sounds. Let the music touch you. Keep falling deeper and deeper." Hypnotic instructions from an electric dance man. His mantra forma good time. "Maybe you want to move a little," he suggested, perhaps to imitate his own musical stage presence. His dancing wad a disjointed ritual expunging demons from his hands and fingertips, which were constantly shaking. He kept spreading his arms wide and pushing the ground away from him in awkward motions and dance waves like he didn't have any joints. 

I fuckin' loved it. He acted as our audio group psychologist for a half hour. It worked. And it was cool, being entranced by his beats, and calming words. At one point he jumped off the stage and crawled through the crowd, and danced with us. The last thing I remember was him saying, "I want you all to do something with me. It's very simple, a little cheesy. Close your eyes." We were his cult followers for the hour.

I was left with a hollow feeling in my stomach, which I couldn't tell if it was from the set I just witnessed (or participated in), or the beers I drank, or the beers I drank on my empty stomach. I missed Homeshake, unfortunately, to go get some sustenance. Problem solved. When I came back it was around 6:20, and it was time for Widowspeak. Two guitars and a harmonica. They lit incense to start, and calm took over the room. "We're mostly playing new songs. Forgive me if I make up the words," we were told.

What ensued was a slew of electric lullabies, plucked and hummed on their twangy Telecasters, whisper-singing, accentuated by the harmonica. Blues tones overrode folk chords, and whether it was my sleep-deprivation, my buzz or the overall loneliness of my week, I closed my eyes and let myself be soothed and rocked easy. By the third song, I had pains in my chest, and I knew it wasn't from the burger I'd just devoured. It was from the Mazzy voice hovering in the room, emanating that gorgeous sense of here-and-now that live music creates. Every bother is left at the door and you feel wholly unburdened.

Widowspeak finished, the last song darkening slightly, but still incredibly pleasant; a forlorn beauty. I left Baby's feeling somewhat hollowed, and I headed over to Spike Hill for our very own DELI showcase. I missed NoPop (fuck!), but I showed up just as Chicago's Bailiff was starting. The trio played a certain kind if southern twang rock, one song reminding me of that "O Brother Where Art Thou?" song. They were tight and inventive, in a genre where you might think things just a bit stale. Bass walks and guitar solos while whistle-singing harmonizes and fills the sound. In their last song, they pulled some bluesy Led Zeppelin shit out of nowhere, belting out some impressive harmonies with authority.

The New Tarot came on around 8:20, all face-painted and their frontwoman wearing a hood. I was ready for some black magic witch show, but it turned out they were a pretty funky bunch! Cool organ tones coming from what might have been the biggest keyboard I've ever seen, blues solos coming from a beautiful orange  Gretsch Electromatic. The songs weren't at all flashy, but totally fun. Fuzz came on and that organ got eerie, and a different, darker type of rock came out. It said, "we're not just here for the fun part. It ebbed and flowed from dark to light, not just song by song, but moment by moment. Vocal parts were harmonized really well, making nice woos nicer, and strange shrieks stranger.

Around 9 The Teen Age came on. It felt like ages since I had heard a punk band. I almost didn't recognize it. They came out of the gates full blast. They still played with effects, the theme of the week, rhythms were straight out of the 80s California punk scene. The drummer's tongue would hang out at the side of his mouth and his eyes would roll to the back of his head but they played like they didn't give a shit. Some songs had a surfy feel, but pop-punk was the majority sound. Gritty but catchy; punchy but smooth. Solos played with effects gave the songs an edge, or took one off, rather. It was anything but generic.

I was sobering up by this point, and I had a problem with that, so I grabbed two tall boys, and caught Charly Bliss. Fuck, I'd already been drunk, hungover, and now I was getting drunk again. Goddamn if Charly Bliss didn't play with two of the nicest guitars I saw all week: a cream colored Jaguar and a red Mustang with yellow racing stripes. They played with melodic cores cut by blasts of distortion and quick drums, the frontgal jumping around onstage, letting the music take over her everything. Screeches transitioned with squeals, but it wasn't unpleasant! Her voice was light and feathery, a nice contrast to the heavy anchored flow of guitars. The crowd loved it.

And then I got drunk again, and Low Fat Getting High was coming on, and I was getting prettypumped. I spoke with their guitarist/frontman as he was setting up, and what I encountered was a humble, down to earth dude, just looking to talk about music and playing music. I was already looking forward to this band and they did NOT disappoint.

There was energy before Big Muffs were hit, but after was an insane tumult of swirling fuzz played with a ferocity of one whose last breath was being fought for, collectively. Their stage presence was indeed one o be reckoned with, by all. If it wasn't their fuzz that was in your face, it was the seamless, incessant pounding of their drummer, losing himself in his mane of hair and not missing a beat.

The set ran seamlessly, the vocals unbelievably more haunting live than on record; I guessed now it was because they had a room to fill with sound. Their bassist played with the fury of a lead metal guitarist, not just a low backing filler. This guy was playing like he was soloing in his room. Unabashed.  Fuck everyone else.

They played eight serious bangers, not one of them lacking in intensity or defiance; everything you'd want out of a band like this. At one point he dropped the mic to the ground, and fell with it, shredding face down on the ground and screaming into the fallen mic and the stage floor - while still playing his six string! (see Micah Weisberg's picture). Low Fat Getting High tore the fucking roof off Spike Hill, finishing strongly, approaching the wall of sound on their last song, with wild melodies and this frontman screaming on his knees.

I was left with the wind knocked out of me. I'm exhausted all over again just writing about it. This festival rules and it's integral for NY music.