My last night of CMJ festivities was on Friday, and I knew I had to make it a good one. I decided to stay in the Lower East Side partly because of the close proximity of a handful of music venues. My first stop was the 5pm show at Rockwood Music Hall to catch The Yells, a NY based band that has been generating a slow buzz for the past year. I’ve seen them play a bunch of times since they started out, so they were a must-see on my list, and they certainly did not disappoint. Clever lyrics, and some of the most talented musicians I’ve come across in this city anchors their alt-rock sound. Songs like “The Yells” & “King of Love” had the crowd hollering for more. They’ve just released their debut EP that had me squealing – it was that good. The Yells are another instance where you want to get onboard before they really take off. They are at the cusp of something great, take my word for it.
After stopping for a few tacos, which seemed like all I ate during CMJ week, I stopped at Pianos to catch the Deli Magazine’s showcase first act, Girlpool, a duo from Los Angeles that plays lo-fi indie rock. Their 2-part harmonies and sparse guitars seem to have struck chord (no pun intended) with the crowds of this CMJ festival because people packed it in to Pianos to catch their performance. They had interesting lyrics that made me laugh more than once and catchy choruses that the crowd caught onto immediately. They’ll be opening for Jenny Lewis next month at Terminal 5, so if you missed them at CMJ, you have one more chance.
The next act I caught at Pianos was easily the most bizarre band I saw during this CMJ. An exercise bike was brought onto the stage and I knew I was in for something special. WALTZ, a NY based band that plays what I would call alternative performance-art music. They show began with lazy bass notes and clicking sounds, with 5 men dressed only in black speedos, each with a letter of the band’s name scrawled across their chests in black paint taking the stage, posing and lifting barbells suggestively. One got on the exercise bike and pedaled in time with the music. I was absolutely confounded at what I was seeing, but it was so interesting I couldn’t look away. One crowd member, obviously a fan of WALTZ’, stood directly at the front of the stage, thrashing around, while lead singer Matt Hutchinson wailed away on the mic and unexpectedly darted offstage crashing into people haphazardly and darting around with no rhyme or reason. It was organized chaos and ended the exact same way it started, but I am so glad I caught that show because the imagery stuck with me all night.
Next to perform was The Yum Dee Days, a Brooklyn based band playing lo-fi indie rock. Apparently they had released an EP a while back that completely went over everyone’s heads but they got everyone’s full attention.
My last stop for the night was back at Rockwood Music Hall to catch paris monster, a duo of sort of a one man show – vocals, keys/synths, drums – yes, it was a sight to see and amazing to hear, and a lone bassist. I would call myself a very frequent patron of Rockwood Music Hall and all of the times I’ve been there I had never seen this place so packed to the point where people were spilling out into the street and onto the sidewalk. The band had built up quite a buzz, playing residencies at the club before and a few shows around the city. I had stumbled onto their sound via a friend on Spotify who was raving about how they were his favorite new band and everyone needs to listen. Let me tell you right now… listening to this band via headphones and seeing them live are two completely different things. This band was so good I had to look around to see if I was the only one who was visibly blown away. I can’t even imagine the amount of coordination and skill it takes to play the drums with one hand, keys with the other and sing song after song flawlessly. The applause was so raucous and one guy was so desperate to get in, he literally crawled in and sat right at the base of the drum-kit. The band’s lyrics are interesting and his voice is soulful. Their sound is for lack of a better word— funky. After their set was over, I looked to the guy next to me and he said, “This was absolutely the best thing I’ve seen all week”. Myself and two other people standing nearby all nodded enthusiastically, still too awed to speak.
Article by: Lesley Keller