The female half of Reading Rainbow is all smiles at Bruar Falls — something I wasn’t expecting given their record's cloudy punk vibe and lackadaisical vocals, made even more surprising considering I’m catching them during what has got to be their fifth or sixth show this week. She stands behind a floor tom and snare, alternatively striking each with a good amount of pep. Though not technically mind blowing, it’s nice to see someone so happy, and when paired with the guitarist's super-charged riffs and saccharine harmonies, it becomes a perfect meeting place between 60s psych-pop and 70s punk. Everything's anxiously sped up and just about to fall apart. The call-response chorus on highlight “Tough Love” mimics the shouts on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation," there are traces of the Ramones worked throughout, and I'm starting to think that, with the exception of Sisters, this is the best of the ever trendy drum-guitar duos I've seen this week.
I remember overhearing Martin Courtney of Real Estate complain about having missed Big Troubles' set at a CMJ last year. Samuel Franklin, aka Fluffy Lumbers, plays the drums for them, and he looks like a kid who just won the science fair. For these reasons alone, I already like them. They do dreamy, fuzzy pop-rock not unlike Wild Nothing or the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but check it: there’s no keyboard. (They do bring a pumpkin and squash up onstage, a nice seasonal touch). The result is less reverb-jacked 80s throwback, more 90s whirling guitar anthems that still manage to sound like the soundtrack to teenagers making out in their cars.
Over at Spike Hill, MiniBoone is in the middle of their power-pop gem "Rosalina Must Dance" when it hits me: with constant movement and goofball antics — there are leg kicks, argyle sweaters, sunglasses — they're the indie-rock equivalent of musical theater (the red velvet curtain behind the stage might have something to do with it too). Or they're Brooklyn's version of BOAT. Or they're cartoons. Or their drummer, coolly nodding his head back and forth like he's in a 1950s lounge band (hence, the sunglasses), is a bobblehead. Whichever the case, they hit hard and tight. Vocal duties are passed around like a hot potato, spread among one to five members. A cover of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" beings as a five-piece a cappella with hand claps. It ends with screams, cymbal crashes, zigzagging keyboard lines and pure elation. With the exception of Surfer Blood doing "Swim" Thursday night, it's the most fun I've had all week.
The only thing I knew about Chappo coming into the show was that they have a song on the new iPod Touch commercial, and I like it quite a bit. When they begin their set with a sludgy electro-dance number and their lead singer's vitriolic falsetto quivers over a persistent downbeat bass, I start to worry. It doesn't help that they're dressed in MGMT-type scarves, headbands, metallic capes and, yikes, a feathered jacket that makes the singer look like a bird. When he moves a certain way, it flaps. This teaming of Bowie's screwy 80s and iconic 60s psych-rock only lasts for two songs, however (though the outfits stay). Next up is something less dancey, more sinewy and anthemic, and the singer starts to sound like an operatic Neil Young. Then comes the iPod song, a revved-up garage rocker with even more exaggerated high-pitched "ooohhs" and a re-worked lyric about "taking your keys and iPod," wink wink. A pummeling headbanger follows.
I have no idea what to make of them yet, but I get a text message from Conklin that Kanye is rumored to make an appearance at #Offline, so, you know, I leave, hoping to one day tell my grandkids about the time before status update chips were implanted in our heads, and I used this thing called Twitter to see Kanye West at Brooklyn Bowl.
When I arrive, there's a line winding all the way down the block, everyone's on their phones, and no one has any idea what's going on. I call Jeff, who's been planted inside covering the Pitchfork-sponsored festival since early afternoon. He tells me that everyone inside is also being made to wait with no official announcement from anyone in charge and only questionable DJs to help pass the time. There are doubts that anything will really happen at all. Outside, there are no doubts. Things I saw/overheard:
* talk of a will call line; apparently tickets went on sale for this at some point in the last hour?
* the doorman refuses $100 to let someone in
* people get out of cabs and say things like, "Where the hell are we?"
* one guy leaves the line to go find a back door
* there are jokes about whether a CMJ badge will get you in
* a second line beings in the opposite direction, adding to the general mayhem
Eventually it starts to rain, and I leave, putting the final moments of CMJ 2010 in the hands of Jeff Klingman and YouTube.