CMJ Day Three: Surfer Blood Covers Pavement, and, Finally, CMJ Feels Right

10/22/2010 1:59 PM |

I like to call it DIY Photography
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CMJ: Kanine Records Party w/ Surfer Blood
Live at the Pyramids
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Live at the Pyramids, the DIY barn/attic/garage space neighboring Glasslands and Death by Audio, has all the markings of Brooklyn’s next musical hotspot for in-the-know cool kids. Christmas lights strewn around the stage, which is really just a platform raised a few inches off the ground: check. Chinese lanterns hanging from a high-rise ceiling: check. A screen projecting random film reel: check. Clearance from “management” to smoke: check. This is important, not only because it’s where The L Magazine’s own CMJ party takes place tomorrow afternoon (shameless plug!), but because it plays into the staggeringly low-key attitude of last night’s somewhat-surprise Surfer Blood show, at least one can hope.

Or, as Marnie Stern, put it: played into “everyone’s mellow,” which she was afraid she might be ruining. After a few squeally songs, she rode an extended interplay between her and the bassist into full eyes-closed, jam-band mode, putting her intricate, punk-skewed, high energy material at bay. Still, something wasn’t connecting with the crowd. Maybe they were bummed there were no lady-part jokes — her mom had called earlier in the day and expressed concern about recent quotes in the press, so, you know, understandable.

Honing a more stripped-down sound, drum-guitar duo Eternal Summers fared well among all the concrete. But jittery, itchy songs like “Abel To” and “Pogo” command a certain amount of energy that seemed to be lacking in singer-guitarist Nicole Yun’s body language. The set was tight, and the melodies were constant, but I worry this rampant “we couldn’t care less” attitude is starting to wear on bands that can do better.

Young Prisms, who, in case you’re keeping track, follow the biggest band name trend of 2010 by incorporating “young” into their name, followed suit. They pretty much follow every music trend in 2010, actually: two or three blaring chords, reverb to the max, moaning by a girl who rarely lifts her head, yada yada. Again, psych-leaning melodies that could hold their own on record come across as one continuous song. Everything’s starting to sound the same.

It felt good then to see Surfer Blood start up around 1:30 or so, if only because “Swim” sounds like Blue Album Weezer, and not a lot of other bands sound like Blue Album Weezer these days. Remember, from last year? When Surfer Blood played “Swim,” like, 13 times in five days and everyone went crazy? There was no denying that it’s still a tidal wave of power-pop, no matter how tired, “mellowed” or bummed about the current music scene the crowd may have been at that point. Though only filling about half the room (did no one tweet that Surfer Blood was playing?!), they responded accordingly. At last: Dancing. Movement. The reminder that music is supposed to be fun, that’s why we’re all standing around in a garage at 2am.

Other material from their debut came across noisier than it does on record, in all the right ways: They really banged away on their instruments and played them well too, spicing things up with worldly Vampire Weekend-like flairs. Meanwhile, new songs tended to feature a hard-soft dynamic, with JP’s bark sprouting more personal lyrics. There was a tropical-laced cover of 60s pop classic “Sugar Sugar” and, to close out the night, a loose, hard-knocking rendition of “Box Elder” — especially fitting given its place among the overtly relaxed bands who played prior. Pavement may have perfected the sound of not caring. Luckily, Surfer Blood hasn’t.