It’s taken a while to recover from CMJ Music Marathon, which really is just that – it’s a test of stamina and patience keeping yourself going for the five days. Due to the disparate nature of the festival it started off a bit slowly, but momentum built up over the week. As with any festival of this scale there were stand outs and a couple of bizarre performances – the overall scheduling proved a bit tricky with last minute time changes, but regardless there were some memorable finds and performances. Below is What State Saw…
Bayonne @ Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn.
First location of the festival was Cameo Gallery, specifically to see Bayonne. With scheduling already running behind and reordered, the small crowd of people gathered were a little jaded by the time Bayonne kicked off. Roger Sellers, the man behind Bayonne, was a solo figure on stage surrounded by a pile of digital equipment, beginning each song with a series of loops that build and build in a way that is hypnotic, paired with his amazingly uninhibited dancing and energy, each person in the room was hooked by the end. This was the definite stand out of day one.
Hooton Tennis Club (pictured) @ The Living Room
The Liverpool four piece wear their influences on their sleeve, with more than a passing sonic resemblance to Pavement. It’s apparent from the outset and took a few songs to appreciate the band in their own right. The overall performance was casual and nonchalant, their performance tighter with each track. Latest single ‘P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L P.I.E.R.R.E’ brought one of the more energetic moments to the set, with the song’s acerbic wit bringing to life a more individual sound.
Slum Sociable @ Cake Factory
Fresh off of the release of their debut EP, Australian duo Slum Sociable are clearly on a high and came to CMJ ready to perform. Enveloped by the crowd atop of the small but always comforting Cake Shop basement stage, the band brought a much needed hint of soul and swagger to the festival. Their self described sound is ‘Jazz-hop’, and what they brought tonight is just that, smooth vocals and infectious beats, their performance left us with ‘All Night’ stuck in our heads for the remainder of the week.
Sleep Thieves @ The Delancy (Irish showcase)
The Irish Arts Center brings a group of bands over for the festival every year and at their first showcase in The Delancy there were more than a few familiar faces plus a few curious music fans. Out of each band playing that evening Sleep Thieves showed up with the most presence, winning over some new admirers in the process. Sorcha Brennan led the charge with a wavy and hypnotic performance that channeled the emotion of Bat for Lashes. Combined with a welcoming charm they produced something special.
Oscar @ Baby’s All Right
Making an impression is no easy feat at this festival, and Oscar Scheller managed to make a lasting one led by his flawless baritone voice. On record it’s part of his appeal, but live it completely stops you in your tracks. On stage with a full band, this was one of the most buttoned up sets of the whole festival, without feeling over-rehearsed – beautiful pop songs performed with humility and an energy that harken back to the Brit-pop era. ‘Breaking My Phone’ and ‘Beautiful Words’ were highlights, and having recently signed to Wichita, his debut album can’t come soon enough.
Ex Hex @ Warsaw
This was a special night for Ex Hex, celebrating their two year anniversary as a band along with guitarist Mary Timony’s birthday, who the crowd happily serenaded. Stripped down, simple and fast paced, the band kept everyone on their toes flying through tracks from their debut album Rips. The set was filled with moments of Timony and bassist Betsy Wright facing each other on stage and just jamming out, it’s clear they were having a blast and the crowd were too. The girls are confident and bring a fresh attitude to typical garage rock.
Kirin J Callinan @ Cameo Gallery
Prize for the strangest performance of the week goes to Kirin J Callinan. Having kicked off with ‘Embracism’ it was an unexpected assault to the ears, so much so we left the venue to catch ourselves and then come back. An aggressive and raspy voice coupled with a bravado that was part entertaining, part insufferable, Callinan ended the set sweaty and topless, refusing to leave the stage until he performed one last song. Said song was ‘The Toddler’, and with the rest of the band off stage, he performed acapella, eyes closed, asking everyone to “just imagine it”. He was clearly into it, and it turns out in that brief moment we all kind of were too.
Empress Of @ Cameo Gallery
Taking to the stage right after Kirin J Callinan, Lorely Rodriguez provided a welcome change of atmosphere. Unassuming in a powder pink baseball cap, she quickly got through her sound check and was right down to business. Me, her debut LP, is very much an aural representation of Lorely, as is her live performance – each track is a part of her and her performance welcomes you into her space and the crowd is right there with her. Seamlessly jumping between more intimate moments like ‘Everything Is You’ to all out dancing with ‘Kitty Kat’, we were all left dazed and wanting more. This is an artist who has established a confidence and sound that is infectious.
Weaves @ Pianos
Performing upstairs in the low ceiling alcove area of Piano’s on the Saturday, it was almost hard to catch a glimpse of Jasmyn Burke from the back of the room. Sneaking closer to the stage,Weaves jumped right in, jerking and weaving across a variety of sounds that are on the more distorted side in a live setting. Burke moved continuously across the small stage area changing persona as much as the music – at times calm and focused, then shifting to a continuous smirk and making direct eye contact with a lucky few; Karen O’s flamboyant stage presence springs to mind. The set was short and sweet, but enough to show the breadth of their stylings and to give us a glimpse into the world of this Toronto three-piece.