Brooklyn Vegan Showcase
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Tonight's festivities are being hosted by comedian Dave Hill, from the Upright Citizen's Brigade, and while he's no Margaret Cho, we find him quite funny. The first musical act of the night is The Walter Schreifels Band, featuring the dude from Quicksand, who then became the dude from Rival Schools. I think you have to be over 30 to know who Quicksand was, but they did a ridiculously good cover of "How Soon Is Now?" which you should definitely request, loudly. Closing out the night, you've got Fanfarlo, a ridiculous name, but a band that's supposedly poised to break big, with their pretty, nicely orchestrated pop songs. To give you a better idea what they sound like, they recently covered "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," so, yeah, they're one of those. Lots of instruments, etc. Quite good, though. Also on the bill, you've got the lovely and talented Laura Marling, and the less lovely and less talented, though also mostly ok, Antlers. Suddenly, this seems like a very strange bill for poor Walter Schreifels.
Panache/NY Night Train Showcase
Santos Party House
They'll have two floors going all night, so you won't even feel like a lazy idiot for not running around the city trying to go to as many places as possible. Whenever you get the urge, you can just go upstairs or downstairs for a change of scenery. The mind, as they say, is a powerful thing. As is the fuzzy, gentle pop music of Harlem, who play the upstairs tonight, alongside Brooklyn's Golden Triangle and the mighty Heavy Trash, featuring Jon Spencer, who will make your ears bleed, in a good way. The downstairs lineup is nothing to sneeze at either, with Juliana Barwick's densely layered, loop-heavy electronic soundscapes, and Dinowalrus, a member of which once commented that he hates The L because we like "pussy-ass indie rock," which is totally true, we do.
Productshop NYC Showcase
You could go the punk-rock route at Galapagos with local heroes Right On Dynamite, who have a song with the lyrics "Waking up seems so much harder when you're filled with regret." Like what the Dinowalrus guy said, this is also totally true. These guys have been at it forever, and it's time we stop taking them for granted, we say. Also on the bill, is Sean Bones, the Brooklyn-based white-boy reggae singer who is currently signed to Frenchkiss Records and who should be far bigger than he is. Do your part, kids, but be sure to get a good night of sleep. You've got a busy week ahead of you.
The xx, Screaming Females, Bear Hands, Team Robespierre
The Marathon is in full swing by now, and nowhere will this be quite as evident as it is at the Mercury Lounge tonight. It's a strange bill, with a bunch of bands that don't have a hell of a lot in common, but it's stellar nonetheless. The xx, whom we write about on every page of this issue, are on early, and you would be wise to catch them at least once this week. Later on, you'll be treated to the wild, classic guitar-rock stylings of Screaming Females, who continue to bridge the very large gap between Sleater Kinney and tons of dude bands from a million years ago. They're very good, and they're from the Jerz, so they're practically locals. They're sandwiched between two longtime L Magazine favorites tonight: Bear Hands take the stage before them, and Team Robespierre after them. If you're bothered by cramped spaces, you'll probably want to make other plans for this evening.
We've been pretty vocal over the years about our utter confusion regarding the constant mixing of indie rock and comedy, but we will play along for tonight and suggest you head over to the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg for Big Terrific, featuring Max Silvestri, Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate, the new SNL cast member who said "fuck" in her first episode. Why sit through a bunch of comedy when there are nine million bands you could be seeing? Well, most bands are really shitty, and you can tell your mom you sorta hung out with the SNL cast member who said "fuck" in her first episode. This will make them think you're less of a failure. Also, we like that Max Silvestri fella.
Evan Dando, Holopaw
Along those same lines (those lines being hanging out in relatively small venues with relatively famous people), you could take a trip down to Pianos to see Evan Dando. You probably don't like Evan Dando as much as we do, which is completely understandable, but he's playing right after Holopaw (featuring the dude from Ugly Cassanova writing much better songs than he does in Ugly Cassanova), who you should like every bit as much as we do, on account of their immaculate, shimmering folk-pop.
Ernest Jenning Showcase
Have you been to the Williamsburg Knitting Factory yet? It's nice, you should go, and you should consider going tonight, for the Ernest Jenning showcase featuring every band we've ever written about: Takka Takka, La Strada, Black Hollies, and Wild Yaks, plus a new project from O'Death frontman Greg Jamie called Blood Warrior, and a new project called Title Tracks, from John Davis of Georgie James and Q And Not U. The show's headliners are Still Flyin, a band about whom the SF Weekly once wrote "Fun is the new not-fun."
James Murphy, Pat Mahoney, YACHT
We're in the thick of things now... three days in, two more to go, and you must've seen at least a few terrible bands at this point. Perhaps some pretentious prog-rock Radiohead rip-offs? Here's your chance to shake off any bad memories. New York's resident dance-punk label, DFA Records, has made it easy for you: LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Pat Mahoney will be there (we assume DJing), as will YACHT. And do you know what YACHT's "Psychic City (Voodoo City)" is? The best dance song of 2009.
Small Black, Pomegranates
The Bell House
Those dudes up on stage look strangely familiar. Maybe they're your second cousins? Or work at your neighborhood coffee shop? Or, maybe, you've seen them play at the CMJs of yesteryear as part of the original Brooklyn blog band. Ah, yes. Uninhabitable Mansions, a new-ish project from two guys in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and a member of Au Revoir Simone, is a no-holds-barred outpouring of shimmery melody and earnest sentimentality. They should be complemented nicely by fellow indie-rock romantics Pomegranates, Freelance Whales, Hawk and Dove and Small Black's sad-eyed, lo-fi jams. It's all part of the party that Gothamist is throwing, presumably based on the credo that pop music trumps all.
Male Bonding, Bear Hands,
Antlers, Delorean, Suckers
This is hard. We really love TV, and Thursday night's lineup is difficult to resist now that 30 Rock is back in action. We also really love Suckers. Bear Hands too. Antlers, not so much, but that doesn't seem to stop many of you from fawning over them anyway. In the end, the British rock overlords at NME have put together a far too solid lineup (between the lightly dusted electro-pop of Delorean to the fuzzed-out punk rage of recent Sub Pop signees Male Bonding) to make us forgo this show. Plus! The titillating promise of "special guests" come early morning. Probably Paul McCartney.
Alec Ounsworth, Hockey, Local
Natives, Sean Bones
We have a distinct memory of seeing Wolf Parade at Sub Pop's CMJ showcase in 2005. They weren't the headliners that night, and we were only there based on word-of-mouth recommendations. Let's just say that by the time they broke into "I'll Believe in Anything," we were fated to love them forever. The point being, the bands on this bill, as much as we love Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's Alec Ounsworth and the fizzy, worldly pop of Local Natives, they might not ever live up to the unexpected surprise of Wolf Parade. It's nearly impossible to be completely blindsided by a band in the days of music blogging, but these guys do make us excited to get out and support music, which, at the end of the day, is all we can really ask for.
When they widely distribute it in another month or so, Cold Cave's grimly catchy debut LP Love Comes Close will be the gothest Matador release since at least Interpol's early decade heyday. Live, with ex-Xiu Xiu waif Caralee McElroy in tow, the band might be more neon glow than pitch black, though. Perhaps they'll lean heavier on their ice-crystal guitar freakouts in the context of a very rock-centric bill; or perhaps the BPM will be jacked further to get the scuzzy lo-fi kids moving. One of the more promising young US bands in town this week, in either scenario.
Brooklyn-tethered concert goers are encouraged to sleuth out the easy-to-miss, but increasingly well-booked Cameo Gallery, where shy, mysterious songbird Annie Sachs will be serving up morsels from Hors d'Oeuvres, her latest LP from Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label. Advance word describes the new disc as Sachs clearing a bit of the fog that permeated her self-titled debut. This tiny backroom space should make for a clear and cozy view.
It'd be pretty nice to think that the impending, long-delayed U.S. release of Sissy Wish's charming 2007 record Beauties Never Die would guarantee an expectant group of new fans, but that's probably giving way too much clout to physicality in a digital age. Unlikely to be circled on too many schedules, and stuck at the CMJ Siberia of Spike Hill, the Norweigian pop trio might have to settle for winning the confused hearts of promenading Bedford peacocks. Expect goofy dancing, surprising bouts of guitar slaying, and general crush-worthiness from supremely endearing front-pixie Siri Walberg no matter what.
Fillmore at Irving Plaza
Live, Hercules and Love Affair is a DJ gig with an overdeveloped sense of theatricality. Lead disco architect Andy Butler stays anchored behind his station, summoning decadence from his decks, while a values voter's nightmare of sexual inclusiveness plays out in front of him. In gigs this summer, barely dressed male dancers in studded capes vogued furiously before him, while three powerful live singers, in three shades of subverted gender identity, ably filled the Antony-shaped lead vocals hole. Irving Plaza is sort of a strange place to put a pleasuredome, but badge holders who care more about ass shaking than bar hopping won't have a better chance to get sweaty all weekend.
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
Anchoring Matador's showcase, and adding a certain gravitas that other quadrants of the festival can't match, is punk lifer Ted Leo, and his trusty band of Pharmacists. The venerable New York indie imprint has had an itchy signing finger lately, making Leo a fully formed sore thumb among the intriguing newbies on Friday night's best all-around bill. But, as this year's slate of performers features more haystack than needle, the exultant old pro is a rock-solid pick. Expect this space to be packed all night, and especially for Leo.
The Capstan Shafts
A year ago in these pages, we wrote about a guy named Dean Wells who was playing one of his first shows outside of Vermont, regardless of having put out more than 24 albums of homespun folk songs in the last five years alone. We call this "prolific." We're worried you might not have taken us up on our recommendation though, so we're sticking to our guns, and telling you again: Go see him. Not only do his lyrics sound like they're lifted from a children's storybook (equally surreal and spontaneous), but HE SOUNDS A LOT LIKE JEFF MANGUM. This might be the closest thing we ever get to a Neutral Milk Hotel reunion, folks.
Pissed Jeans, The Moondoggies, Dum Dum Girls and more
Hey Moondoggies, way to go with the band name, heh. Although, to be fair, it doesn't stick out much when sandwiched between the equally ridiculous "Pissed Jeans" and "Dum Dum Girls." So Sub Pop, along with their imprint label Hardly Art, hasn't put together a showcase with the best-named bands. They do, however, make up for it in the quality of the music, as if Sup Pop would ever wrong us. The Moondoggies channel Tom Petty's everyman rock with a country twang, hardcore punks Pissed Jeans are as beastly as ever, and Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls floats through soupy goth pop as if she were a Vivian Girl.
Music Hall of Williamsburg
To be fair, we aren't completely sure that this show is happening, as it's not an official CMJ showcase and isn't listed on Music Hall's website... but it is posted on Holiday Shores' MySpace page. Before you assume we're god-awful at our jobs, you have to believe us that we scoured the Web, emailed publicists and swam across oceans to get a confirmation, but no one seems to know much about this supposed day party put on by college radio promotion company AAM Radio. But at least now you know how badly we want you to hear Holiday Shores. They are, of course, one of the million beachy lo-fi bands invading the blogs right now, but there are more elements at work than their seashore brand lets on: faint traces of Afropop, clamorous noise, and Shins-esque melody. Then stick around for the (confirmed) Mexican Summer/Kemado Records showcase that's going down later on in the evening at Music Hall with the Smith Westerns, Real Estate and others.
Having just played a boatload of shows in the past four days, not to mention having recently signed to Matador Records, we would be genuinely shocked if ramshackle Austin-based trio Harlem wasn't causing a bit of a stir by Day 5. (Have you listened to "Beautiful and Very Smart" yet? You should. It doesn't end up quite where you think it will.) For this, we're recommending you by step some of the crowds and see them at After the Jump's unofficial closing party at Brooklyn Bowl. Then head home and get some sleep. You deserve it.