With CMJ officially underway as of Tuesday, everyone wasted no time in getting the music and energy turned up to eleven. Like every year, the week’s festivities begin with the post work, media party at the CMJ hub (this year it’s Dream Hotels) for a bit of free booze and phenomenal finger food. The conversing with fellow media and journalists is brief however, as around 7:30, the party begins to slow down as attendees begin to head out to their nightly assignments.
Webster Hall was the destination last night for the BalconyTV CMJ Kickoff Showcase. Even for night one, the Marlin Room was steadily packed and full of fans and industry personnel catching some of the action on night one.
Spirit Animal took the stage with their high energy, no bullshit, and hard rock power act. In a week where a lot of bland shoegazing bands will be taking over NYC, this power quartet stands their ground being a riff-driven guitar band. There is a bit of groovy funk in their core, but up front they come bringing a hard rock sound like a Kashmir-era Zeppelin or The Black Keys. Equally as exciting as singer Steve Cooper’s ability to draw attention as a frontman, were guitarists Cal Stamp and bassist Paul Michael’s ability to create a big sound with their lead-driven style of playing with each other. Hard rock is certainly not dead, just kept as a CMJ secret.
Alex Winston was up next on the bill, and as usual she did not disappoint. The songstress was trimmed down in band-size to a trio, but that didn’t take anything away from her signature retro sound, in which she successfully brings 80s pop into 2015 with style and charisma. The songstress stands out among contemporaries like Ryn Weaver, Halsey, Haerts, or Phoebe Ryan in her live singing ability, but also her fresh-sounding song styles. Although she may fit within the genre, she carefully disguises her pop sound and hides it with honest songwriting and performing.
Next up was a hot and ready pop duo from the U.K. in FEMME. Known better by her stage name, singer Laura Bettinson brings her bass heavy electro-pop made up of hints of Euro-pop with throwback retro DJ mixes to the NYC scene this week. She pulls no punches, and what you hear and see is basically what you get, but it’s her tastefully sexualized performance and style that makes you instantly take her and her style of music seriously. In almost the way a burlesque dancer draws in her audience, Bettinson does the same with a flirtatious and talented vocal performance. She seems to embrace a sexually driven pop music style, and pulls it off flawlessly. She’s not a one-trick pony by any means however, she’s earned her way onto the bright lights of CMJ at Webster because of her killer ability to perform and sing as a solo act on stage with all eyes on her, and she doesn’t disappoint at all.
Article: Tom Shackleford