Some things will never change about CMJ: There will always be a million bands, a few hyped-up acts, at least one denoted “breakout.” There will always be college coeds impressing one another with their knowledge of Radiohead. There will apparently always be a ton of events going on in some convention center/meeting hall that the tech-heads and industry types get super stoked about. And there will always be late nights, thanks to a colorful array of winners and losers. Here’s how things stacked up at the 7th anniversary party for Oh My Rockness. (P.S. Happy B-Day, OMR. You guys belong in the winners category.)
Chad Valley’s voice
Spilling over clubby beats and synthy whooshes, Chad Valley cooed, then bellowed, then cooed again into two alternating mics, creating a wide-scope feel to his one-man band. With his spot in the lineup falling after two bands led by fragile-voiced singers, the richness of his vocals stood out, pining towards serious-minded synth-pop. It was nice.
Right, so, he didn’t play or anything, but the more synth-pop bands I hear that sound exactly the same — same beats, same effects, same calibrated patterns — the more I like that Youth Lagoon record.
I’ve already compared Headless Horseman to You Forgot It in People-era Broken Social Scene, minus a few hundred band members, and I’m sticking to that, though the amount of live percussion the duo crams into their show is unexpected. You know the drill by now: floor tom and snare played by a person standing up. But with this band, its two key players are standing face-to-face and continuously exchanging percussion and guitar duties. And there’s a weird contraption attached to one of the drums, something that from my vantage point looks like a tin plate, that when hit (“thwaked,” its prover verbiage) gives off a fierce, steely bash. And an occasional xylophonist. And a new song that saw both guys banging away — rim tap here, rim tap there — in a tribal showdown.
Guitars played with bows
One of them also played the guitar with a bow for a short while. That, combined with all the percussion, gave their performance a junkyard appeal.
Wise Blood’s ego
Stage banter highlight reel from the ever-boisterous Chris Laufman, aka Wise Blood, during a performance that at one point had me thinking I’d witnessed a Wavves-like breakdown: “This is CMJ. You don’t go to shows unless you’re the press and you love me.”This should only be a 15-minute show. Fuck Cameo.” “We are Chris Laufman.” (He plays with a two-piece band.)
Though they were running perfectly on schedule, the lag in-between sets seemed to stretch relentlessly. I realize that under CMJ circumstances, this relatively short bout of turnover time is all a band gets for sound checking, but, yikes, it was taking forever. As was the seven-or-eight minute song Chad Valley ended on.
Evan Voytas’ unintentional Andy Samberg impersonation
Evan Voytas doesn’t seem like the coolest kid on the block, and I like that about him. I like his melodies. I like that one song that sounds like it could be played at bars that serve drinks with tiny paper umbrellas. I like that he and his backing band forge considerably tighter, leaner, 80-nodding dance songs since catching them at the Oh My Rockness party two years ago. But I just can’t get myself to like his voice. At its shrillest, it’s a Prince knockoff; at its breathiest, it exudes all the forced R&B sexiness of Andy Samberg in a SNL Lonely Island skit.
“Twin Sister is playing [this week]. I don’t really care about seeing them.” — Wise Blood
The milling crowd keeping Cameo mostly full during the night was polite enough but definitely not full of wide-eyed, eager college-types lapping up the energy of the city. I only saw two people wearing their badges around their necks. That sort of crowd. Leads me to believe that despite this suuuper helpful Guide to Brooklyn that CMJ posted on their website, most of the out-of-town crowd is still scared to cross the bridge.
Wise Blood’s ego
There was also this, directed at the audience: “I’m going to get you guys back, you know that. I’m first going to need whiskey and a shot… I’m sorry. I’m going to be out of here very soon.”
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury