CMJ combines the fun of a scavenger hunt with the best part of any show- namely, the first 45 minutes, before your feet start to get tired.
The High Dials were supposed to play at Arlene’s Grocery at 7:30 (or 7:45, or 8:00, depending on where you look), but there was a record release party for The Morning After Girls, which kicked off with a photographer from NME photographing the band holding French bulldogs wearing sunglasses. This wasn’t part of a CMJ showcase, but Castanets weren’t scheduled to perform until 8. The three of four songs I heard showed promise. Coming off like a heavy metal Stellastarr*, TMAG incorporated the screechier aspects of In Utero into a their sound. Not technically part of the CMJ festival, though.
CASTANETS @ Sin-é. Live, Castanets played their songs with very spare arrangements, marking a real departure from the sound of their albums. They sounded a lot like (smog). The closest they got to “rocking out” was on the second-to-last song, “Cathedral 4 (The Unbreaking Branch)” off last year’s Cathedral, but most of the set was slow, dirge-y songs that sounded like the slower instrumental parts on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
LANGHORNE SLIM @ Sin-é. Man, was he good. Seeing Langhorne Slim perform makes you wonder if anything beyond a man and a guitar is really necessary. Like Seth Cohen channeling Robert Johnson, Slim’s songs are at once funny, moving, and heartfelt. He talks to the audience a lot more than he did last year when I saw him at The Sidewalk Café, cracking more jokes and having a great time.
ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET @ Mercury Lounge. Glam is coming back, from a bunch of different directions. Robbers sound like the soundtrack to the glam rock heyday tribute Velvet Goldmine. They are well equipped with the secret weapon of any good band- a great drummer. Both The Strokes and The Clash came to mind at different points during their set.
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH @ Mercury Lounge. The line to get in to see these guys looked like a bread line in New Orleans. With so much hype surrounding this new band, would they really be able to deliver the goods? Um, yeah. They were really great. Seeing them live made their album come together for me in a way it hadn’t before… not that I didn’t like it, but seeing them live made me realize that they are definitely something special. Singer Alec Ounsworth draws comparisons to David Byrne, but he sounded more like Bill Campion from The Bogmen, all slurred words and yelping.
Lee Sargent and Robbie Guertin.
Sean Greenhalgh, Alec Ounsworth, Tyler Sargent