Friday, December 5, 2014

CMJ 2014 - The BIG Friday + Saturday Shows

Friday, October 24 saw the Croms Musical Journey portion of the conveniently similarly initialed CMJ music fest commence in the early afternoon at NYU's Kimmel Center and the 8th Floor Shorin Studio.

Popping in to their Room 802 Theater, I settled in to catch the Steve Kandell moderated conversations with Merge Records and Superchunk founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance.

Like most of these kind of panels, the presentation of information is frequently anecdote driven and nearly always informative.  Click on the "live" links associated with the various names above to delve deeper into their world.

What followed that was something I had targeted as a "must attend" as soon as I became aware of it.

A screening of the film Beautiful Noise

Created to be something of a definitive statement about the genre of music most-often referred to "shoegaze" (though I prefer the tag "dreampop" over it),  The film covers most of the great bands who helped revolutionize that style of music from the late 1980's through it's primary decade of the 1990's, arcing in the early 2000's.

Predominantly interview driven (with some essential performances), it was for the most part extremely faithful to the musical legacy depicted.

With the lion's share centered around three bands (My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins) my viewing experience became enhanced to near surreal proportions, having My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe in the audience watching as well!

The interview segments with Jim Reid were particularly enlightening.

His on screen moments were candid and honest.   Having followed his career since I became aware in the late 1980's, I always come away with one more tidbit of info or revealing emotional feeling each time I hear him talk about his band.

Original JAMC drummer and Primal Scream creator Bobby Gillespie provided additional insight on that bands beginnings.

Then of course there is Creation Records creator, original (and now current again) JAMC manager Alan McGee weighing in with his own take of what went on.  It is at this point in the film that you become aware that it is not all a "love fest" with regards to this genre's history.  The fact that My Bloody Valentine leader Kevin Shields and the above-mentioned Alan McGee still express ill-will towards each other is a sobering reveal of the friction that often walks hand-in-hand with such "beautiful noise."

* * * * *

Having committed earlier in the week to an in-person interview, I had to bolt out of Shorin 802's theater and head on down to The Artists Lounge at The Rivington Hotel.

Viewed from street level a few blocks away, you can spot the penthouse Artists Lounge at the structures uppermost point.

Inside and at that level just observed from the street, the views of New York City are truly breathtaking.

An architectural dreamworld up against a softly clouded blue sky.

I had a fun chat and interview with Brian and Lily from the band PARLOUR TRICKS.

That full review can be found here on Dingus.

Additionally, a feature I wrote about their single "Lovesongs" can be found here on The Deli

* * * * *

After spending a leisurely hour or so in the Artists Lounge quaffing down complimentary Vita Coco Cafe Latte's, I made my way back to street level and headed over to The Studio at Webster Hall.

Arriving in time for the Bird Dog Promo showcase, the first band on was a three piece combo (with really amazing lights) Las Rosas

They had an appealing sound and their lighting created magical effects that you usually don't get on stages of this size.

What brought me to this particular location and time, however was to catch a set from the band Beverly.

Their overall visual presentation also benefited from the above-mentioned lighting rig.

However the real appeal of Beverly are the high quality songs and magnetic presence of creative force Drew Citron.

It's hard not to get swept up into the combination of these sweet sights and sounds.

Without stating the obvious, Drew Citron's overall presence combined with her obvious talent for a song hook and rich vocal structures appeals on all the right levels.

Drew now fronts the band which includes Jamie Ingalls on Drums, Scott Rosenthal on bass, and Caitlin Frame on guitar, synth and the distinctive harmony vocals.

The music Beverly makes stands out from the pack due to the meticulously crafted vocal harmonies.

That combined with dreamy atmospherics and moody lyrical hooks places them firmly in the dreamgaze camp.

The song and video for “Yale’s Life” is something that could only be accomplished in studios (both the sound and image making variety), displaying a true artists creative vision at work.

Drew played the bass for one song too.

There is much to like here.

My recent blog and Full Interview with Beverly can be found via those highlighted links over on The Deli Magazine.

* * * * *

Scurrying out of Webster Hall Studio after their set, I headed back downtown for The Deli Magazine showcase at Pianos.

Arriving at the no-way-was-I-going-to-miss-this scheduled time, I eagerly took in a set from the always mesmerizing Vandana Jain.

I've covered more than a few live shows of Vandana now.

But also over on Dingus

And The Deli Mag too.

Vandana and her band never fail to dazzle with wonderful electronics and passionate vocals.

A rare capture of the sultry one smiling.

A voice that still dominates an electronic mix.

Making music with intelligence, creativity and style.

* * * * *

Up next was the moody, impressionistic pop of Bowmont

While this band also relies heavily on electronic keyboards, the traditional rock instruments of guitars (both electric and acoustic), bass and drums all contribute to their nuances sound design.

An interview I conducted with frontman, singer, lyricist and multi-instrumentalist Emil Bovbjerg can be found here on DaveCromwellWrites , (which also links out to it's original posting on Dingus).

As well as this post-show acknowledgement (and video presentation) here on The Deli Mag site.

Setlists and pedal array make for interesting photos

* * * * *

Hanging out at the various venues throughout New York City during CMJ can provide many wonderful opportunities to meet the creative people currently working in the music scene.

As I sat upstairs in Pianos (hugging the wall as it were, charging my essential communication device - the mobile internet and voice unit - more commonly known  as the 'smart phone') - I had the pleasure of a random hangout and chat with one Andy Savours.

Having the chance opportunity to verbally engage with such a credentialed individual in our music scene (just click on his link there for all the details) was one of those "happy accidents" that occur at an event like this.

* * * * *

Sufficiently recharged (both electrically and intellectually) I made my way down the stairs and back into the main room to catch a set from local rockers Baby Alpaca

Fronted by lead vocalist Chris Kittrell, the bands overall sound has evolved quite a bit since I first became aware of them.

One of the earliest pieces I wrote for The Deli Magazine (way back in June 2010) was on their first single “Vodka Lemonade,” (which can be read via that link right there) as well as two other early tracks.

In addition to his obvious talent and great voice, Chris is a super nice person too!

* * * * *

What followed was something I had been anticipating for a while now.

Much hype has been swirling around the Japanese (though London based) band Bo Ningen

A certain mutual friend in our scene has developed a feverish appreciation for this band, and has been singing their praises to anyone within earshot (which includes yours truly).

I have to confess that their show IS quite spectacular.

A traditional two guitars, bass and drums outfit, their sound is a frantic psych-rock that occasionally steps over into prog-rock territory.

Two members appear to have cultivated an androgynous kabuki style for themselves, with their extremely long flowing hair and floor-length skirt-like garments.

The songs are epic in presentation, following a classic pattern of frantic-to-subdued-to-frantic-once more structures.

Like many modern drummers these days, a combination of acoustic trap kit and electronic trigger pads were employed.

The "star" of the band is clearly bassist/lead vocalist Taigen.  A compelling, magnetic and almost cartoonish figure, at times he'd scrunch up his face until his eyes became those little "x" shapes you see in actual Japanese anime.

The whole band were exceedingly proficient on their instruments, flamboyant showmanship aside.

Guitars are shaken and swung about with reckless abandon.

Taigen ventures out into the audience, much to the delight of those in attendance.

Ninja bassist gives praise to the God of Thunder

Prepare to enter the hall of Tengu

"I waive my magical ha-uchiwa at you all"

Conducting the shoulder-bass symphony.

This magic gun that never misses a shot.

* * * * *

Next up were the increasing-in-popularity Sunflower Bean

Following up the over-the-top anime-like histrionics of the previous band could be a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, the Bean can.

Having a youthful, casually cool fashion model-like presence as a key pillar of the band is certainly an asset.  Being able to sing and play bass at an arguably cut-above simply good-enough-for-rock-and-roll level also helps the cause.

The equally dreamy tandem of male counterparts guitar-flash and drum-stache keeps the Sunflower rising at an almost miracle grow rate.

A noticeable evolution in stage presence and confident demeanor was observed.

A solid trio that appear quite comfortable playing with each other.

Apparently guitar frets are better seen with painted fingernails.

Not to be outdone by anyone else, the requisite amount of head-forward hair shaking was employed.

The look of intuitive communication between a well-rehearsed band.

Thumpin' the bass all over the place!

Contemplating one's next move.  It would appear all systems are grow.

* * * * *

Saturday, October 25 emerged (as initially hoped) as the culminating night of the entire festival.

Legendary dreamgaze pioneers Slowdive announced their first tour since they broke up in 1994 earlier this year, and Terminal 5 would be the location for their New York appearance.

Having a CMJ badge granted me access to this glorious event, and there was no way I was going to miss it.

I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  Did they still "have it?"  Would I be disappointed that the live show couldn't live up to these magical records I had been listening to for over 20 years?

My fears were quickly put aside as the show they put on was an absolutely amazing concert experience.

The general consensus among nearly everyone I know here in the New York music scene is that Terminal 5 is "the worst venue in all of New York."   I have been one to say it many times myself.  I've avoided many shows there for years based on my initial experience with the place.  Simply put, the staff that work there are cement-headed power-trippers.  I'm talking about the individuals (though it appears to be a collective conscious) assigned to simple access checkpoints.  Not the ticket takers (scanners mostly now) or bartenders (who I will admit, I have very little interaction with).  However, a box is a box and a room is a room.  My second overall experience at this place was a really good one when I had full media access for Kate Nash last year.

However, on this night (once again) a brief encounter with the cement-heads reminded me of my peers (and my own) well-founded trepidations - and so I opted to work my way into the general population audience and took a prime position front/left of the stage.

As for the performance - simply put, this reunion show was a perfectly brilliant experience.

Everything was wonderful.  The lights, sound, visual projections behind them - and all those songs that hold such an emotional connection with their audience.

Their set included all the classic dreampop songs (many of them presented in the above-reviewed movie "Beautiful Noise"from the previous days recap) that have made them the sonic legends they are today.

Check out this video I shot from the show:

A truly hypnotic performance.

A remarkable, dazzling lightshow.

Fans on the balconies, as viewed from the main floor.

Every space filled for this packed, sold out show.

What a true concert experience should be.

All the wonderful songs played

* * * * *

There was no way anything else happening could top this experience, and so the wise decision to conclude CMJ 2014 at this point was made.

On to next year!


Mirror said...

Ray Kimura wrote:

Well, for Slowdive, Yes as you mentioned Dave, their show was absolutely amazing and brilliant!! :D I will never for get my feeling on the day when I saw them at Fuji Rock Fest!

as for Bo Ningen, pretty many "music friends" abroad have recommended me this band up to now coz I'm Japanese though, I can NOT get in them :( Maybe, just a matter of taste especially about "image" and "atmosphere"... In my eyes, they look like a weird Japanese classic horror image! (Do you get what I mean??)

DaveCromwell said...

That must have been an equally brilliant show at Fuji Rock Fest, Ray. So glad to know you got to experience this amazing feeling. As for Bo Ningen - I DO get what you are saying. If you read my words about them here in this blog - you will surmise that I too am not completely convinced of their overall "greatness." I do admire and respect what they do well - but I totally get your misgivings about certain aspects of their over-the-top presentation.

Misty said...

oh, wow! so much greatness here. that 'beautiful noise' sounds excellent. i hope it turns up in places where we all can see it. of course i absolutely love that whole period of music.

great to see the gorgeous Vandana Jain covered again! i've been to see her live and love everything she does.

DaveCromwell said...

I hope they make "Beautiful Noise" open to a wider distribution as well, Misty. That film *needs* to be seen.

Of course I'm always thrilled to attend and cover shows by Vandana Jain. She has grown into one of my all-time faves! Love everything she does.

Unknown said...

Looks like an amazing time. Beautiful Noise is a must see film here too ( although I haven't seen it yet ;) )

DaveCromwell said...

Andy, I think you'll find that even someone like you (or me) - who already know so much about the period "Beautiful Noise" covers - will discover at least one new tidbit of info that you previously didn't know. Overall the film is very well done.

Mirror said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mirror said...

Matthew Levin wrote:

Slowdive are the best band on the planet right now IMHO. Saw them in 91 in Seattle and that was amazing, but they sounded even better when I saw them on this tour in DC. Neil is a guitar wizard, Rachel's voice is lovely, and Simon pounds those drums with vigor... Even though I just saw them, I'm jealous. If I didn't have a little baby, I would've come up to NY for that show....When they did Golden Hair, Syd Barrett was smiling somewhere...

DaveCromwell said...

It was truly shimmering, Matthew. Dreamy and majestic. As you can see by the setlist there, they played all the wonderful songs I wanted to hear.

"Machine Gun" - "Souvlaki Space Station" - "She Calls" (which I recorded and the video is up there), "Dagger" - "When The Sun Hits" - "Alison" - all of these songs have made an indelible impression on me, and serve as a soundtrack to the passages in my life.

William said...

some great stuff - cmj must stand for creamed my jeans!

slowdive must have been amazing!

lots to check out :)

DaveCromwell said...

Ha, ha - you keep coming up with new explanations for the "CMJ" moniker, Will. That's cool. Yeah, Slowdive capped off an amazing two day run experience. Don't pass up an opportunity to attend one of their shows if you can.

Anonymous said...

Nice review, I like the photos.

DaveCromwell said...

Your sense of the visual is always appreciated, Anouk :) said...

Wow, those pictures of Slowdive came out wonderful! Truly stunning, glad the set list made it up there so I can think about what I missed.

Mr Smork said...

looks like "one wild night" for you, Dave.

as i'm not local i'll have to do a bit of digging to know those bands you covered here.

though "parlour tricks i already know and admire, and interview i remember. :)

sweet piece, man.

Ivanka said...

great review!! I loved the pictures!!!!

DaveCromwell said...

As I wrote in the feature, the Slowdive show (the entire presentation) thoroughly exceeded any expectations I had going in. It really was that good. Glad to see someone remembering the multiple features I've recently produced on Parlour Tricks too.

Mirror said...

Chris Mills wrote:

Well, from what I found here, I really like Beverly, especially their single 'Honey Do'.

Drew Citron is a little like a blonde Kim Deal in looks, vocals, style, and the music does have some noticeable Pixies DNA. I think I may just order their Careers album.

DaveCromwell said...

You are spot on with Beverly’s sonic influences, Chris. In my recent interview with Drew Citron (which can be viewed via the link up there) I asked her about that, and she answered:

“Oh yeah, I’m a big fan. I got to see them a lot and they definitely were an influence on me. Surfer Rosa was my favorite record when I was a sophomore in High School out in San Francisco where I grew up.”

The Midnite Rambler said...

Interesting that your article is in part about Beautiful Noise because I was just reading about it.
How lucky you are to have seen Slowdive. Last week I watched some recent live clips on YouTube and they sounded fantastic! I imagine the show was incredible. How nice to know that they are working on new material. I'd heard a couple of years ago that the JAMC are working on new material but so far I haven't seen anything.

DaveCromwell said...

The Beautiful Noise film is well worth checking out whenever you get the opportunity, Rambler. For those of us that love that era of music (and its continued influence), time truly well spent.

Yeah, I can't wait to hear the new Slowdive material. As for the JAMC - they *have* a lot of stuff done as well. Just a matter of them finishing it all off and choosing the best time to release it. I think at this point they should just do an 'mbv' and put it out already.

Unknown said...

Great photos and interesting review, looks like the show had a cool and contagious atmosphere.