CMJ 2009 : Day Three

<img src="" alt=" " />After two rather unpromising days of CMJ, Day Three was a major improvement, thanks to singer/songwriters. ...
CMJ 2009 Day 3 Recap

 After two rather unpromising days of CMJ, Day Three was a major improvement, thanks to singer/songwriters.  During the day, that was at Brooklyn Vegan’s late-announced showcase.  At night, it was at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review), capped off by a burgeoning young favorite:


Brooklyn Vegan Presents showcase @ Piano’s

Surfer Blood, 2:25 PM

 Surfer Blood

Surfer BloodClick image for full gallery

It looked like there was nothing during the afternoon on Day Three, but then Brooklyn Vegan to the rescue!  While announcing an afternoon showcase only the day before plays havoc with those of us trying to create comprehensive CMJ schedules (QRO CMJ Preview), it did save the daytime of Day Three (though what’s up with Piano’s – QRO venue review – not being booked & announced during afternoon of a CMJ day?…).  Oh, and there’s free Miller beers!?!

A definitely talked about band, playing many shows at CMJ, Surfer Blood’s sunny sixties had a bit of yes, surf, but was certainly enjoyable, though maybe not worth playing CMJ so many times (okay, maybe this year…).  The Florida band probably warrants further study.

 surfing attention


Lovvers, 3:10 PM


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Even more talked about were Lovvers, and why?  Their sloppy garage-punk wasn’t bad, but the only thing special about them were their English accents, and that the singer/guitarist took his shirt off at one point (playing from the crowd isn’t special…).  "So you guys could be described as boring little fuckers" was likely a joke, but only further pointed out that they weren’t that interesting, either.  And him taking his shirt off only made him seem a little douche-y.



Chris Denny, 3:55 PM

 Chris Denny

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The incredibly nice day may have gotten more people to Brooklyn Vegan’s late-announced showcase, but once the Miller stopped being free (did last fairly long), also really invited people to stand around outside of Piano’s (which had it’s big front window open), as opposed to watching the acts.  Headed upstairs at Piano’s for Holly Miranda (see below), but the country-folk Chris Denny was still playing, and just couldn’t muster any interest in.


Holly Miranda, 4:45 PM

 Holly Miranda

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Wasn’t the only one who went upstairs for Ms. Miranda, and could now see the flaw in Piano’s upstairs, as it is difficult to fit a crowd in the space when it’s crowded, something else didn't notice @ Piano's upstairsthanks to the many low tables & couches on either side, plus no stage riser (and little in the way of lighting, beyond the sunlight through the windows to either side of the ‘stage’).  Leaves a packed, thin middle that breaks into seated folks, often having to turn their heads or peer over other seated folks to get a view.

jealous of that mikeHolly Miranda was playing with only one guitarist, despite the fact that she & the following Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (see below) share a backing band (did he out-and-out poach them?).  Without full instrumentation, her songs did kind of just run together, even as she upped the heartbreak from her work The Jealous Girlfriends (QRO spotlight on – who hopefully jealous of those mikesaren’t following Brooklyn indie acts like Pela – QRO spotlight on – & Harlem Shakes – QRO spotlight on – and breaking up, but rather just in the hiatus of frequent bill-mates Sam Champion – QRO spotlight on).  The once-and-future Jealous Girlfriend has a strong & emotional voice – and from the (physical) way she sings, one can’t help but wish you were her microphone…

Holly Miranda


Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, 5:30 PM

 Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

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Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (QRO interview), or ‘MBAR’ as I (possibly alone) like to call him, had Miranda’s full band behind him, and it was kind of hard to believe the band had played for her, considering the difference in their sounds.  MBAR has gone more rock ‘n’ roll with his latest, Summer of Fear MBAR(QRO review), not too party time, just a better musician, and it showed in his live show.  His voice is kind of affected (though some of that was due to Piano’s upstairs’ sub-par-at-best sound system), but it works with his sound.  His rock was definitely impressive (convincing at least some to hit him up again at night), but his more emotional songs also had real strength, without being too mopey or too cheery.

 MBAR stole HM's band!


Alec Ounsworth, 6:10 PM

 Alex Ounsworth

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Upstairs after MBAR was supposed to be Alec Ounsworth, the singer/guitarist of the recently-broken up Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but it was announced he was playing downstairs.  This induced groans among those who thought that they’d had a good spot to see Ounsworth upstairs, and that it would mean Piano’s downstairs would be packed with people Alex Ounsworthleaving the upstairs – those closest to the action upstairs then farthest from it downstairs.  But downstairs was virtually empty – had to ask someone down there if Ounsworth was actually going to be playing.

It was just Ounsworth & guitar (& harmonica), sitting down, and his set was thus naturally kind of sad & spooky, or at least touching & special, especially when the lights were turned down (luckily had already gotten enough photos by then…).  Ounsworth tailored his set to his surroundings, with a lot of covers & traditionals, and only a few off of his new Mo Beauty.  His voice is still really nasal-affected, but, in a way, better-suited for a quiet, candle-lit show than a rock performance, and the audience (which did beef up a bit as time went on) was certainly attentive and respectful.


Paradigm showcase @ Mercury Lounge

JBM, 7:30 PM


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Showing up early for Patrick Watson (see below), caught JBM (which looks remarkably like his set-time, 7:00 PM), yet more heart-wrenching solo alt-folk – but at least he does some looping.  It was also really quiet in Mercury – one could hear one’s phone go off…


Patrick Watson, 8:00 PM

 Patrick Watson

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After making a serious splash in 2007 with Close To Paradise (QRO review), including winning Canada’s prestigious (and money-included) Polaris Music Prize (beating out the likes of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible – and Feist’s The Reminder – and he won it right after being interviewed by QRO – QRO interview – so it’s totally thanks to us…), Patrick Watson (QRO spotlight on) kind of disappeared.  The Montreal musician had always been bigger in Canada Patrick Watson& Europe than the States, but it seemed past time that he headed south of the border.  But he’s always done an impressive live show (QRO review), so his only CMJ show – and seemingly only his second NYC date this year – was a must-see.

Patrick Watson Had somehow missed the release of Wooden Ships earlier this year, and Watson is known for his live shows being built around, and thus focusing on, his latest record – but it didn’t matter, as he gave the best performance so-far of CMJ.

 Patrick Watson's drums 

Patrick Watson + jerkFirst off, Watson somehow managed to get a baby grand piano on the relatively small stage at Mercury – combined with his accordion on a table, seated guitarist, and drum set, there was hardly any room to move; when Watson went to or from his piano, he had to walk on the edge of the stage to get there (around some jerk-off sitting on the edge of the stage, who’d put his little digital video camera right on the edge of the piano, just overlooking the keys, for all of Watson’s songs there…), as there was no room behind it, with the drum kit wedged in there.  Secondly, the entire band had a great light show, with the lights pointing up at them, from the stage floor, not down from the ceiling, often alternating in bursts between Watson, drums, and guitarist & bassist (why would anyone use a flash, as opposed to just take a bunch of a given shot, knowing one would be lit up excellently?).

 Patrick Watson's guitar & bass 

Patrick WatsonBut most importantly, Watson’s orchestral, emotional sound was powerful & more words ending in -l.  Even the faces he does while performing feel natural, not affected.  He later said that he would finally be hitting the States hard, and it’s ’bout time!

Before the last song, Watson went to the front of the stage, to thank the crowd, and let them know that the staff at Mercury was going to have to set up ramps to move the piano off the stage, so please give them space.  But as he was talking, a staff member was bringing up this giant contraption, sort of a backpack with five poles coming up and off of it, each which held a megaphone (which themselves had small lights attached).  The audience got antsy, dying to know just what the hell that was & what Watson was going to do with it – he strapped it on & headed directly into the middle of the crowd, the rest of his band in tow.  When the hook-up to Mercury’s sound system gave out, Watson just started singing louder (and it was restored).  It was a very memorable end to a very memorable performance.

 Patrick Watson + ?!? 

[note: Watson & co. going into the crowd for the last song also gave Mercury’s staff a head-start on dismantling all of his gear on stage, including piano:]

 early start 


Alec Ounsworth, 9:15 PM

 Alex Ounsworth

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Definitely didn’t need to see Alec Ounsworth for a second time at CMJ, let alone twice in the same day, but Mercury wouldn’t let people leave & come back (a major flaw at pretty much every Bowery Presents venue during CMJ), so hung around to see Mr. CYHSY again while waiting for Ambulance LTD (see below).  While not as good as Clap Your Hands (though you kind of knew he was going to Alex Ounsworthgo his own way, considering he lived in Philly, while the rest lived in Brooklyn…), or getting to sit on one of the couches at Mercury between sets (next to a space being saved by a girl for her boyfriend – saw so many people try to sit there, and he was gone a pretty long while; what’s the time-limit on saved seats?), Ounsworth was certainly stronger than his solo performance earlier (see above).  After doing the first song like then, solo & seated, the rest of the band joined for a definitely more electric show, which picked up as it went on.  Less over-distorted than CYHSY, in ways good & bad.


Ambulance LTD, 10:15 PM

 Ambulance LTD

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Marcus CongeltonLike Watson & unlike Ounsworth, Marcus Congelton was playing his only CMJ show that night at Mercury.  It’s been a long time since Ambulance’s debut LP won hearts & minds (so long that the rest of the band left to form Red Romance), largely due to the legal troubles & bankruptcy of Ambulance’s label, TVT (same thing happened to The Cinematics – QRO album review).  So Congelton has a ton of new songs, as he still searches for a label.  When last seen (QRO live review), the new songs had a funky backbeat (QRO video) – this time, had some tonk (as in ‘honky-‘).

The show naturally picked up when Ambulance started playing LP songs, first "Ophelia" (as well as post-LP New English EP‘s title track), but when he played one very new song live for the very first time, it nicely combined old Ambulance, new Ambulance, and ‘old new’ Ambulance.  Congelton didn’t do LP single "Primitive" (the way he treats us… – QRO video), but pretty much every song on that record is single-worthy – including opening instrumental "Yoga Means Union", which he also, completely unsurprisingly, didn’t do…

 Ambulance LTD


PureVolume House @ 169 Bowery

Man Like Me, 11:15 PM

 Man Like Me

horny horns!Click image for full gallery

On my way southwest for Your Nature at Canal Room (see below), stopped into PureVolume House for a free drink(s).  The set up there had certainly improved since Day One (QRO recap), moving the bar to the far end, and even providing some (non-folding) chairs to sit on!  Man Like Me was the best band never heard of at PureVolume so far (not saying much…), an eighties U.K. two-tone act, with horns, accents, and tech – as well as great, coordinated dance moves.  If you have fond memories of The Specials, etc., you will definitely enjoy them.

 Man Like Them


ASCAP showcase @ Canal Room

Your Nature, 12:55 AM

 Your Nature

John FrankClick image for full gallery

Certain favorite local bands, which you’ve known since they were practically just starting out, have to be caught at CMJ, and Your Nature is one of them.  Even if I still think of them as Frankpollis (the combination of last names of the original trio, before Malcom Perkins joined & they got tired of everyone spelling it Jackson Pollis‘Frankpolis’…), the group is growing nicely – and from a very nice starting point.  Most young bands have to build to become expansive Brit-rock (a term bassist John Frank actually questioned people using, with regards to them), but Your Nature started there (as Frankpollis…).

 Your Nature

Malcolm PerkinsJames Pollis Your Nature hasn’t quite yet filled the slot as ‘favorite NYC band I’ve seen from early on, now getting bigger’ (empty ever since the break-up last month of Harlem Shakes – QRO Tribute) – for one thing, they need to release a record (that’s what CMJ’s for, finding those people & contacts) – but are definitely coming along strong.

 Your Nature


Unfortunately missed:

Nothing during the day, though would have hit up Red Collar (QRO album review) @ Studio @ Webster Hall (QRO venue review), 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, if hadn’t seen them yesterday (QRO recap), and that they still didn’t have their drummer.

– Jonny Leather’s ‘Good For Me Is Good For You’ showcase @ Union Hall (QRO venue review), 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM.  Even if the only band I was interested in was ArpLine (formerly The Kiss Off – QRO photos).

– Bobby Brown @ B.B. King’s, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Okay, not really, but wouldn’t you just want to see some of the ex-Mr. Whitney Houston?…

– The xx (QRO album review) @ Apple Store SoHo, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Mostly because they’re pretty much the most-buzzed about band at CMJ this year, even though wasn’t that impressed when I saw them (QRO photos).  But Apple Store SoHo was sure to be packed, and, more importantly, won’t let you The Postmarks' poster @ Canal Roomtake photos – and not that you would have been able to see anything, anyway, from what Gaelen said about their performance the day before (QRO recap).

– DFA Party, featuring YACHT (QRO interview) @ Brooklyn Bowl (QRO venue review), 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM.  The pair put on a great show (QRO live review), but sure to be packed, and would probably have to wait through tons of DFA DJ/dance & dancers (James Murphy & Pat Mahoney’s ‘Special Disco Version’ is not LCD Soundsystem – QRO live review).

– Arts & Crafts showcase @ Union Pool (QRO venue review), 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM.  Even if it had none of the Arts & Crafts bands one cares about, save Still Life Still (QRO album review)

– Saddlecreek Records showcase @ Knitting Factory, 8:00 PM – 2:00 AM.  Saddlecreek has some much-beloved artists (Land of Talk, Tokyo Police Club), but other than saw-him-earlier-that-day MBAR (see above), they weren’t playing CMJ (most are Canadian – did they all get stopped at the border?…).

– The Postmarks (QRO album review) & Casxio @ Canal Room, 9:15 PM – 10:45 PM.  Christine already loves The Postmarks, but was also really impressed with Casxio.

– Bear Hands (QRO spotlight on) @ Delancey, 10:45 PM – 11:45 PM.  Had horrible experience at Delancey two years ago during CMJ (QRO recap), vowed never to return.


Other notes:

– Somehow, the nicest weather so far…

– Killing time & enjoying that weather, outside of Piano’s during the day, ran into not only going-to-play-soon Holly Miranda & Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (see above), but also playing-that-night Patrick Watson (see above), played-last-night Jonathan Benedict of Jones Street Station (QRO spotlight on) & a wasted Phil Radiotes of playing-Saturday Phil & The Osophers (QRO spotlight on).

– Holly Miranda (see above) had the best line of the day, "Welcome to CM-hey!…"

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