Tuesday’s relatively weak lineup of CMJ shows, coupled with my extreme hatred of venue-hopping, made my decision to stay at one place for the entire night a very easy one. Brooklyn Vegan had its official showcase at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, featuring blast-from-the-past Walter Schreifels, Denver-based, but Swedish-sounding folk band Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel, occasional Noah and the Whale member Laura Marling, the recently buzzed-about Antlers, and the even more recently buzzed-about Fanfarlo.
The Walter Schreifels Band went on first and played a set of disappointingly middling rock and roll, the type that’s much better to dive into when you’re young, as opposed to backing into when you’re old. It’s the difference between sounding like the Replacements and sounding like the Wallflowers, and Schreifels and company came out on the wrong side.
I hadn’t heard Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel before last night, but they were a very pleasant surprise. Rateliff’s voice, which reminded me of the Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson, strikes the perfect and rare balance between soothing and powerful. I’m going to buy his record now, and I suggest you do the same. Assuming you like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes and autumn.
Next was Laura Marling, whom I feared might not be able to hold the attention of he crowd, which had grown to almost capacity by the time she went on. I was wrong, though: Marling’s voice is far bigger than I’d ever really given her credit for, especially on the handful of new songs she played, where she seemed to be doing the Joni Mitchell thing even more than usual. Her next record could be a very big deal.
Now on to the first of the evening’s biggest draws. I definitely get the whole Antlers thing more than I did before seeing them live: they seem like nice enough kids, they certainly seem to be having a good time, and they make a hell of a fucking ruckus, with blaring keyboards and guitars working in such perfect unison it’s difficult to tell which is which. The effect they had on the room was impressive for such a young band, and I’m excited to see what they do next. My hope is that singer Peter Silberman becomes more dynamic with his vocals and learns to employ a tone other than constant and utter desperation.
And finally, Fanfarlo. Before they even took the stage, I was admittedly ready to hate them. They were far too slow with their set-up, probably because they had one dude soundchecking each instrument, instead of each band member doing his or her own, and it was infuriating, especially since the show was running almost an hour behind schedule already. And to make matters worse, they even did the thing where, once everything was ready to go, they waited another few minutes—it’s a move that should only be attempted by bands far more established than Fanfarlo.
The most interesting part of the night came when they did take the stage and were greeted not by the rousing applause you might expect for a band headlining a high-profile show during a high-profile festival, but by pretty much complete silence. No one actually likes Fanfarlo, you see, because they’ve only just begun to enter into the music world’s consciousness in the past few weeks when everyone started listing them as one of the bands to watch at this year’s Marathon. The room wasn’t full of fans, exactly, but of people trying to decide if they wanted to be fans, and it was a strange thing to watch. They won people over eventually, though, with material from their debut full-length, Reservoir. I’ve had a hard time deciding if it reminds me more of the Arcade Fire of Kings of Leon, which is sort of an important distinction, obviously. Now having seen them live, I’ll acknowledge that they’re leaning more toward the Arcade Fire (with a little bit of Beirut thrown in for good measure, actually). but there is definitely some Kings of Leon lurking in the background. It was only Tuesday, though. By Saturday, they might have it all figured out.