1. To be fair to the bands, the sound checks are almost non-existent, and the amount of time to play is very short. There is little time to get into the groove.
2. Seeing a band with an audience of fifteen or less is not the greatest way to judge their ability, musicians often feed off the energy of an audience and play off that dynamic.
3. Some groups are road veterans and are always relaxed and no big deal, another show of many.
4. Some are locals, so just hopping in a cab and meeting bandmates with their instruments is not too stressful. While others travel to perform at these events, hoping to catapult them into a new category of exposure.
5. Then there are different performers, like bands with local fans. Seeing them in this setting is great but an unfair advantage in judgment.
6. Solo and acoustic performers need an exclusive venue for listening.
7. Finally, some bands have been hyped beyond their current capabilities and are bound to disappoint.
I have read much of the coverage of the anticipated main events and lesser-known acts, only to realize that writers are fast to judge and tear down what they have spent so much time hyping. For instance, an act like Dan Deacon has received a slew of press and many new opportunities. I’m sure he is aware of some of the problems created by his insistence on performing on the venue's floor rather than the stage. It is difficult to change midstream, especially when riding on the success that has been a long effort. Changing what has been working is difficult and takes time and thought. He also has a philosophical bent being both a performance artist and composer.
The band Cut off Your Hands traveled from New Zealand and booked many shows to gain exposure and distribute their recordings in the states. They went for it and took a risk; they certainly got their name out there.
I truly understand the reasoning behind un C. Em. J. Music Fest, 07 alternative events catering to the under-21 crowd with good music taste, who are basically shut out from attending many of the shows offered by CMJ. The curated Blogger shows present another alternative. Many of the Bloggers staged events to give exposure to bands they have seen and enjoyed so that others from across the country have the same opportunity.
I wish I lived in closer proximity to Manhattan. Within the year, that will all change but for now, driving for over an hour and parking present obstacles.
I made my outing to two venues The Gothamist House and The Indaba Loft. Both are low-key free events.
People might find it strange, but I love the band o’death and I love Peasant. It was nice to see Peasant perform before a small attentive crowd and just hear his beautiful voice without any distractions. He followed o’death and most of the crowd walked out before his set. I think that is too bad. It is difficult for acoustic solo performers without a band because people expect instant gratification and theatrics over substance. His voice and song arrangements are beautiful, sincere, and tender and might seem foreign to an older, cynical listener.
To see o’death while sitting on a couch sipping sparkling water with a twist of lime presented a predicament. I didn’t sit for long. I loved seeing them play in such an intimate and cozy setting. Instantly their style of Appalachian punk with elements of diverse composition altered the surroundings. They played two new songs that sounded wonderful. It was a nice treat to see a tuba player in the mix adding additional flavor to their original and invigorating sound.
Cut Off Your Hands played very loud power pop punk, with emotive vocals that sounded like a mixture of the Cure and Cursive. Seeing them just felt out of place in a small venue during the day. It was as if they were performing for a stadium. Watching the lead singer posturing and
going through MTV video antics made me chuckle. I still enjoyed their lively 4 song set.
Indaba was very friendly and relaxing, it really felt like a party. The crowd was getting too comfortable talking, so when Natalie Prass finally arrived for her set after being delayed in traffic, the audience couldn’t stop. That was unfortunate because I liked what I heard, even with a backing band, it was an acoustic sound, so the outside noise couldn’t be drowned out. She has an interesting vocal range and reminds me of Fiest and alt. country great Patty Griffin. Her song arrangements were also quite nice.
I came to Indaba to see Beat Radio, I like Brian Sendrowitz's songwriting and have seen him solo acoustic once before. I’ve been meaning to see the band for a while. I’m happy I did. The sound is very powerful and rich live. There are no rough edges. The music is not slick, it is real, and the musicianship and collaborative spirit of the group are a pleasure to witness. The smart and memorable lyrics are melded into a sonic mix of finger-picking, electronic echoes with an upbeat pulse. My notes read....................
Powerhouse Phil Jimenez on keys and Guitar. They’ve got chops!
In both venues, I found the CMJ networking annoying, like reading while someone is performing a few feet away or talking really loud and not stopping even when there is a quiet moment on set. I think most of the networking can be done between acts. Maybe my networking is more limited, but I accomplished a lot and received an awesome EP from Jukebox The Ghost. I will see them soon!
I ended the evening at the Pink Pony. They have the best reasonably priced home cooking, a great atmosphere, and a jukebox. I drove home listening to Peasant’s Three songs promotional recording looped all the way. Ahhhh …….Work the next day. Wake up at 6:00.