CMJ Day 1: Descent Into Madness (Kenny)
NOW WITH PICTURES
UPDATE TOMORROW WE ARE FUCKING TIRED
9:30 – Wake up on the floor, get up, take a shower, have breakfast. I do not remember much – I am not a morning person.
11:00 – Just picked up badges at a church near NYU’s campus. There is a Voltaire quote on the church’s bulletin board – a sign?
12:30 – We all attend an actual conference event – “Little Stations, Big Obstacles.” It appears that other people are going through the same things we are, which is somewhat encouraging. My favorite panelist is Jorge doCouto – he is involved with East Village Radio, which is a wonderful concept executed in the much the same way KWUR is, but on a more professional level (they try to make money).
1:46 – Panel over, we head off in separate directions. I make my way to the Knitting Factory with the fine Mr. David Schainker.
2:15 – We arrive at the Knitting Factory in time to catch our first show of the festival, Carcrashlander. They make a lot of noise for three guys (drums, bass and synth) and certainly aren’t bad, but the fact that I don’t remember much of the show suggests perhaps that they were not great. Good, most definitely not great.
2:45 – Shainks departs, I get lunch in Chinatown (mmm McDonalds – an authentic, culturally stimulating meal) and head back to the Knitting Factory to catch Starfucker.
3:40 – Starfucker puts on a good show, but they seem, to me, to replicate the sound that MGMT made popular (that is to say, glitch-synth pop). The hipsters dig it.
4:00 – After a few songs, I make my way to Arlene’s Kitchen to catch part of the Team Clermont showcase.
5:00 – I’m now at the Team Clermont showcase, and I catch all of The Broken West’s set. They’ve certainly got a lot of energy, but their style of melding folksy rock and poppy hooks doesn’t do a whole lot for me. I need music that’s rough around the edges… but, I still enjoyed the show.
6:00-7:45ish – We get dinner with some KSLU folks, meander, etc, and eventually head over to the Bowery Ballroom for the next round of bands.
8:00 – Sweet Water is supposed to play first, but for whatever reason, The Muslims come on instead. It’s more than a fair trade – The Muslims kick ass. They play angry, stripped down garage punk rock with every bit of their energy focused on their instruments. One of the guitarists, face contorted, looks as if he’s trying to physically punish his guitar. It’s catchy as hell – not obnoxious but plenty loud, perhaps in the vein of Ted Leo but even more intense. My only complaint is that the show is too short, clocking in at just over 20 minutes.
9:10 – Japanese Motors is up next. I had specifically picked this band to see because we’d received a single from Vice, their label, a few days prior to our leaving and I’d liked its laid-back, surf rock/Beach Boys sound. Their live show captured that sound, and I still like that particular song, but the rest of their material is lackluster. The lead singer is a dead ringer for Iggy Pop, in looks and attitude, which wouldn’t have been a problem except: A. the music didn’t really back the attitude (punk evolved, in a way, from surf rock, but these guys just didn’t get it) and B. the lead singer made up for his overabundance of style with a severe lack of substance. Spitting beer on the crowd, really only okay if it’s a no-holds-barred, all-hell-has-broken-loose-and-the-5-0-are-on-their-way kind of show, and believe me, it wasn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
9:40 – More meandering, grab some coffee in Chinatown and head to the Knitting Factory for our last round of shows of the day.
10:40 – We arrive at the Knitting Factory in time to catch the end of Akimbo’s set. I’ve got a big ol’ soft spot in my heart for stoner metal, and this hits it dead-on. Granted, the genre itself is predictable and the show followed the paradigm – loud, heavy, freak-out guitars hooks and pounding drums transition to psychedelic, spacey noodling and back again – but they hit every note with unparalleled energy. Very much in the vein of Kyuss. A good start.
11:00 – Dan Burton and I catch the end of Yip Yip’s set. He doesn’t care for them, but I like it – it’s like listening to a live, chaotic version of the Megaman soundtrack and the audience was going batshit insane. Also, I want one of those guys’ headgear.
11:10 – Akimbo mentioned that they’d be heading down to see DMBQ, so DB and I figured we’d do the same, kill time until The Mae Shi. DMBQ plays Japanese prog-rock, which I neither liked nor disliked right away. I’d categorize it as a faster and weirder cross between Black Sabbath and The Doors – garage rock on speedballs. After 10 minutes or so, the hooks and beats have been sufficiently pounded into my head, and although it’s been fun, I’m looking at my watch and considering going upstairs to wait for The Mae Shi.
And then this happens, and my night and life are changed forever:
First the lead singer dons his crazy gas-mask-mic, the bass and guitar lines meld into a high pitch whine, and then this:
And I lose it. That was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, period. The drummer is playing ON TOP OF THE CROWD, the lead vocalist is screaming and hanging from the sprinkler system, and the people who run the venue are going nuts. My ears and mind are sufficiently blown.
11:45 – Outside, taking a smoke break and waiting for The Mae Shi to go on, I mention to DB that we should just go home now because nothing will ever top what we just saw. So wrong.
12:00 – The Mae Shi take the stage with almost religious fervor. They’re just so damn happy to be there, and it makes you happy too. Their music, played live, fluctuates between experimental electronica and hardcore. At one point they introduce a large parachute-tent sheet into the crowd:
The crowd is very much into the music, which is at once catchy and bizarre, a rare musical mix of avant-garde and pop sensibilities.
12:40 – The Mae Shi have left, and we are considering doing the same to catch Gang Gang Dance. Shainks, who has been at other venues up until this point (catch up with his antics in his account of day one, somewhere on this blog), informs the three of us that Santo’s is at capacity and that there’s no way we’ll get in. Monotonix is up next at the Knitting Factory, and we nearly leave to go home, but in the end decide to stay for it.
1:10 – Monotonix take the stage, at this point all I can offer you is pictures.
Quick rundown of things that flew through the air during the show: beer cans, cups, a pair of crutches, a garbage can, a drum kit, human bodies, blood, sweat, tears of joy.
Injuries: No idea, probably more than a few, saw a musician from another band bust his head open on a bass drum. He seemed unphased.
Every single band that had played that night was on stage during the show, while Monotonix themselves played in the pit. At one point they picked everything up and moved it to within two feet of where we were standing. The lead singer scaled a giant pillar and hung from the balcony, singing and tossing the VIP attendees’ alcoholic beverages on us. Security and techies looked on with stony faces.
The show ended in total convergence of musician and audience. The lead singer declared “ALL DRUMS UP IN AIR” – this was the tipping point, there was no going back from here. DMBQ joined them in the crowd, and together we all hoisted 4 drum kits and 4 drummers above our heads. We used whatever we could – fists, cans, discarded drumsticks – to collectively beat the hell out of the drum nearest to us. Complete, ecstatic, beautiful chaos. The show ended with security declaring to the audience that the cops had been called, and that we all needed to leave. Instead, Monotonix organized a group stage-dive – and every musician on stage, on the count of four, fell into the arms (and heads, and necks, and torsos) of the audience. I leave knowing that I have seen, for perhaps the first time in my life, an honest-to-god rock and fucking roll performance. My eyes are opened.
Thus day one ends, as I stare through a thick film of alcohol and sweat on my glasses. Stay tuned tomorrow, God knows where we’ll all end up next.