If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the lineup for the Miscreant & Father/Daughter CMJ showcase was tailor-made for me. Pretty much every artist on the bill has been in my high rotation all year, so I was insanely excited to see everyone live, most of them for the first time. The lineup boasted three previous Bands To Watch: Girlpool, Jawbreaker Reunion, and Sharpless (and definitely a few future ones as well), plus a long list of artists who have put out some of my favorite music this year, including Mitski, Small Wonder, and Adult Mom.
As always, the most exciting part of CMJ shows is seeing artists that you don’t know — or haven’t given much attention to — come completely out of left field and blow you away. This year, both of those artists came pretty early on during the day, when the room was only half-full (or half-empty, if you’re a pessimist). Brooklyn’s Bethlehem Steel were completely gut-wrenching. Vocalist Rebecca Ryskalczyk stood still for most of the time, dressed in a striking red hoodie with the hood covering her head, and gave an intense and visceral performance. Bad Cello, the solo project of Zeno Pittarelli, captivated with only a keyboard, laptop, and his emotive voice, which was backed by elegant booming synths.
Moving onto artists that I was already familiar with: Jawbreaker Reunion!! Guys, Jawbreaker Reunion!!!! If you were turned off of them because of the name, please get over it and go listen to their debut album right now. Their songs rock so hard and were even better live. I’ve been fangirling over them since the beginning of the year, so I made sure I was front row and it was without a doubt one of the most fun sets I’ve ever been to. They were the band I was most excited to see going in, and still the band I’m most excited about going out. Just absolutely fantastic.
One of the most buzzed about bands going into CMJ was Girlpool — they showed up on pretty much every major lineup and by the time they were at Silent Barn on Friday night, you could tell they were seasoned vets, despite the fact that they’ve only been together for a little over a year. They cycled through songs from their debut EP and a few new ones, and all of them were very polished and impressive. Here’s some video of them performing “Blah Blah Blah”:
There so many other highlights that I wish I had time to get into: Mitski was amazing — she performed without a backing band, which only served to bring out her beautiful lyricism; I’ve seen Sharpless a few times at this point, and I think that this was the best I’ve seen them, perfectly translating all the pent-up energy from their new album into a live setting; fellow Epoch members Small Wonder also killed with a set that consisted mostly of breath-taking new songs that (somehow) sounded even better than what was on Wendy, which is in the running for my album of the year. Adult Mom also deserves a shoutout for an enchanting and endearing performance — definitely check out her EP that came out earlier this year.
Twelve hours, nineteen bands — it was an exhausting day, especially coming at the tail-end of CMJ, but it was completely worth it. It also helped that everything about the event was just so much fun! Miscreant and Father/Daughter know how to put on a party. They made the wise choice of forgoing a DJ in between sets to do karaoke, which mostly turned into Taylor Swift songs by the end of the night. (The only downside was that we couldn’t sing along to any 1989 songs, which had leaked earlier in the day and was the topic of many conversations.) Here’s a playlist of all the bands that played, and check out photos above.