Stereogum Does CMJ: Speck Mountain/Le Loup/Papercuts/Bowerbirds @ Knitting Factory, NYC 10/18/07 (Force Field/Aero Showcase)

On a night that didn’t really offer much by way of new-band-discovery options, ForceFieldPR and Aero Booking represented with the best bill of bands we liked but had yet to see live: Band To Watch Speck Mountain, Band To Watch Le Loup, San Fran pop project Papercuts (aka Jason Quever), and the mighty Bowerbirds. Great lineup, yes, but disparately received by the attending Factory folks. The John McEntire-recorded Speck Mountain record vacillates from the dreamy to the dreary. At its brightest moments it’s a Mazzy Star-gazing delight, but live at Knit it tended more to the soporific side. Things rebounded, energetically at least, with a stellar set from lupine D.C. septet Le Loup. The Hardly Art kids crammed themselves onto the Knit stage, alternating between Spacemen 3 guitar bursts, Animal Collective melodies (check the Feels feel of “Le Loup [Fear Not]”), and banjo-fied folk runs. They’d be a tough act to follow anyway, but Papercuts’ mid-set stops ‘n’ starts to deal with equipment issues killed any chance they’d have at winning the restless Knit crowd. Still, Jason’s exquisitely crafted, ’60s-leaning organ songs were there if you were patient enough for ‘em, and we were. Check the MP3 below — record’s good, too.

But the big winner of the showcase to these eyes and ears were Bowerbirds. Been waiting a long time to see them now, and the North Carolina trio exceeded expectations. It was a simple stroll through their outstanding Hymns For A Dark Horse, singer/guitarist Phil Moore usually starting tunes alone, rolling out his Darnielle-approved lyricism to a loping cadence, then to be joined by partner Beth Tacular (on accordian/bass drum/harmonies) and wine expert Mark Paulson (on violin/bass drum/harmonies). And they dressed the part (cowboy shirt, red ‘n’ long skirt), true to their definitely-not-from-this-city aesthetic. One of of our very faves of CMJ; suddenly their Hymns are back on heavy rotation. Jump for MP3s from each band and concert images.

Speck Mountain – “Stockholm” (MP3)
Le Loup – “We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!” (MP3)
Papercuts – “John Brown” (MP3)
Bowerbirds – “Olive Hearts” (MP3)
Bowerbirds – “Dark Horse” (MP3)