Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let's Do This Shit: Winners and Losers From CMJ Tuesday

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 1:37 PM

METZ: a winner. My photography skills: a loser.
  • METZ: a winner. My photography skills: a loser.
While women from sea to shining sea and across the fruited plains were squeezing into binders last night, those at Oh My Rockness' CMJ shindig were having their ears blown off. I'm fairly sure we got the better end of the deal. Baltimore foursome Roomrunner and newly minted Sub Pop signees METZ took to Williamsburg's Cameo Gallery to clobber auditory senses, male and female, from sea to shining sea and across the fruited plains. Right now there's a guy in Minnesota who woke up this morning with tinnitus and is wondering why. In the grand tradition of jam-packed music festivals, there was a host of winners and losers in night #1. Here's how things shook out at Cameo:

WINNERS

Volume
Starting off this year's CMJ with back-to-back bands flexing hardcore-punk-post-whatever muscles rather than the more typical montage of disengaged style-trumpers was an awfully happy surprise. In other words, Roomrunner and METZ play guitars, and their guitars are blaring. The former's fist-swinging punk takes hairpin turns to Nirvana-land to occasional banshee-shrill metal. METZ, meanwhile, comes at the volume much more head-on. Their sheets of noise are brutal and drilling, but coming from a pool of bright white stage lights and greaser t-shirts, there are touches of romanticism that curb the harshness. It's a slight downsizing as far as being pummeled with noise goes, mind you, but a notable difference separating the band from, say, last year's CMJ hardcore heros Trash Talk.

Surprises
Despite the volume and general pandemonium going down, neither band showed all their cards at once, instead revealing an arsenal of ear-blowing tactics with unexpected ante-upping throughout their sets. When convinced Roomrunner's noise level couldn't swell any louder, there'd be a squiggly guitar squeal or an all-hell-has-broken-loose climax. METZ conversely explode their sound all over the room while keeping a tight rein on it. Controlled chaos is in effect. Every element is tightly packed with the band working as an interlocked three-piece puzzle. A song like "Dirty Shirt" may sound as though it's sputtering out of control, but it's done with intent and purpose.

People and their badges
Cameo was the most crowded I've seen it in recent memory, which is a pleasant sight for opening night of any festival, especially one that still tends to localize on the Lower East Side. By the time METZ came on (right on time!), the back part of the room was shoulder-to-shoulder, and yet I had no problem getting in with a badge.

"Let's do this shit" and other endearing sentiments
"Let's do this shit" is credited to METZ frontman Alex Edkins. It was said in encouragement to the audience after he spent some time headbanging with every once of his being, but before he spoke of his gratitude for the crowd, the other bands on the bill, and hosts Oh My Rockness. Roomrunner ringleader Denny Bowen was equally affable and complimentary of his fellow bands, in a lovable slacker kind of way.

LOSERS

Vocals high in the mix
Again, volume was king last night, at times to the detriment of vocal clarity. (At one point, Bowen requested his vocals be turned down to more of a "medium-sized mancave.")

Circle pits
Despite the bands' best efforts, the crowd remained mostly stiff, never whirlpooling into a circle pit as they often do at these types of shows. The room was crowded, but asking for lively and crowded was pushing it.

Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.

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