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Sunday, October 26, 2008

CMJ Day 5 - Final Night

Well, everything that we set out to accomplish was accomplished. CMJ final night was certainly the encore.

It began with the oddness that is The Music Tapes. Banjos, musical saws, and singing television sets were the weirdest of the weird. But somehow the spectacle was enjoyable. The band had a live show that couldn't be denied as completely original. From a metronome that was taller than the singer to a song that was played with ball bounced on a snare drum (front man Julian Koster claimed it “was hard”)-there is no band quite like the Music Tapes.

The duo that is Wye Oak followed and poured passion into their set. There performance was certainly a highlight of the evening. Singer Jenn Wasner told heartfelt stories in which you can easily connect-from family struggles to anticipation of the end of one’s youth. The band plays their hooky folk songs that build to become rocking versions of themselves with drummer Andy Stack also playing a keyboard. This in itself was worth the show, but there was so much more. If you’re a guitar player, you wish guy could play half as good as the talented Wasner. Her vocals entranced. For many this performance may have earned Wye Oak a spot on the best of 2008. The band sounded even better than their recordings live and since it was a brief set, it left many wanting more.

After Wye Oak I made my to the Bowery ballroom where a band called All the Saints played as one of the tightest bands of the week. They were an undoubtedly talented trio, however, there was nothing to really draw you in the way that Wye Oak or other bands had throughout the week.

Many were excited to welcome, Marnie Stern-the modern day Lita Ford. But much cooler. Her finger tapping on the guitar, a la Eddie Van Halen was a style that amazed many. And the woman could sing. Her stage presence was immense. She earned some new fans at the conclusion of her set.

Next up was Vivian Girls and damn were they good. The distortion that the three-piece packed into their brief set was intense. All No Age comparisons were dropped…this was an original band that writes catchy but fuzzy and thunderous songs. They rocked through the brief ditties from an album that will be on many top ten lists at the end of the year and they set the stage for Crystal Antlers.

Now, just know I went to the Bowery for Vivian Girls but left a big Crystal Antlers fan. Mr. Kevchino compared the band to Mars Volta and yeah, I could see that. But they were better. The set was backed with energy that never seemed to dive. One track after the next had the audience moving almost uncontrollably. Crystal Antlers sort of felt like a jam band with a purpose. They were much funkier than Mars Volta and one of the best performances of the whole of CMJ.

Finally, A Place to Bury Strangers closed the evening with the loudest songs of the night. The stage was set with dimmed lights as the band played appropriately distorted and dark music. The loud, fuzzed out guitars drowned out the vocals but the band show was immediately powerful. The performance brought to mind a less dreamy My Bloody Valentine or a dreamier …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. The band concluded by adding a little destruction to the stage as they distorted there sound even more as they heaved their guitars aside. Ears were buzzing as the crowd dispersed from an amazing night.

All in all the final night was the best night. Until next year CMJ. Thanks a lot!

~ Nick Greto

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