With the weekend officially here, the CMJ Music Marathon revs into high gear tonight, the second instalment of the New York festival’s four-day run.
Irving Plaza is a critical place to be this evening, although you’d never know it from the utterly forgettable first band, Cure-wannabes Sunshine. The downtown venue boasted a hotly anticipated line-up – Russell Simins of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, At the Drive-In, Tenacious D and Grandaddy – that draws a celebrity-studded crowd. Ad Rock and Mike D of the Beastie Boys are spotted in the VIP area (Simins and Drive-In are on Beasties‘ label Grand Royal), members of Phish come out to cheer on Tenacious D, and David Bowie is rumoured to be present for Grandaddy‘s set. (Bowie makes a surprise appearance at the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards earlier in the night).
Tenacious D – two actors who joined together in 1994 as a rock spoof –
surprise those who thought that At the Drive-In or Grandaddy were going to be the bigger draws. The duo have the clearly obsessed crowd at capacity, madly shouting requests and singing every word of every song. Grandaddy prove all those Radiohead comparisons to be true, and Simins and At the Drive-In offer intense performances that run all over the place.
At the Roxy, Belgian ambients Hooverphonic open up for the consistently rockin’ BT, who adds a live band to his sequencer. Unfortunately, Tori Amos doesn’t show up to sing ‘Blue Skies’, which BT remixed into a hit, but the knob-twiddler substitutes with a similarly divine chanteuse, and even takes the mike himself on ‘Shame’.
The house party continues uptown at Float, where DJ Dan, Hybrid, Dave Ralph and Nigel Richards take advantage of the club’s fantastic sound system. Ralph‘s set is one of his best; unfortunately, it was wasted at the too-early hour of 9pm.
At Limelight, a converted church-cum-club, shirtless dudes and tube-topped women are havin’ it large under green lasers at Gatecrasher – Global Sound System with DJs Ashley Casselle and Robbie Nelson. There isn’t a ‘Crasher kid in sight, only outer-borough New York mutations – and lots of them.
The Jade Tree Records showcase at the Bowery Ballroom serves up emo bands with roots in punk rock. Pedro the Lion, a one-man outfit from Seattle, doesn’t get much of a rise out of observers with his simplistic, melancholic musings, although ‘N Pync (a.k.a. The Promise Ring) fares much better in terms of energising the crowd. Headliner Jets to Brazil brings the music of Jawbreaker to mind, which isn’t surprising since Jawbreaker‘s Blake Schwarzenbach sings and plays guitar and keyboard for Jets.
At Matador Records‘ event at the Westbeth Theatre, the influential label once thought of as quite “indie” show off a versatile roster for a, well, indie crowd. MC Paul Barman serves up conversational white-boy rap, followed by San Francisco‘s Live Human, who proved to be truly skilled as go from hip-hop into ambient electronica. London duo Wisdom Of Harry struggle to keep their minimalist drum ?n? bass in sync, and Bardo Pond delight concertgoers by bringing out Mogwai for a few numbers.