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First Impressions at CMJ Fest


by Samuel Hernandez

With CMJ finally underway, New York City is swarming with enthusiastic fans, countless musicians, and venues with open doors just waiting for it all to converge. It’s normal to find yourself running across town to catch the next act on your schedule, or sticking around out of curiosity to see the next band on the showcase list because that first band was just so damn good.

Halfway through CMJ and I’ve found myself going with the flow of things, discovering what could be and probably will be a new favorite band. But first let’s meander together through other bands you’re going to discover here.

First stop for anyone short on cash or looking to crash the scene is the glorious three stages at the Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side. All through CMJ the venue is hosting three simultaneous musicians each half hour or hour, bringing in a new set to blow you away, and it’s all free. Tuesday night I caught a set from the English band Duologue who were charming enough to mention that all they were drinking that night was “honey and lemon.” The band is electronic rock, the kind you may have never heard before, an excuse to put aside your disdain for dubstep and see how incorporating elements can make a song deeply melodramatic, overwrought but in a pleasantly dark and ethereal way. The band draws comparisons to a more avant-garde U2, no not all bands from England sound like U2, this one actually nails the vocals.

Fast forward to Santos Party House in Chinatown on a wet night. German band Claire takes the stage with bravado, a female lead singer who authoritatively leads her band. Can you imagine what it would sound like if Kelly Clarkson was the lead of an actual band with heavy guitars, thumping drums, and evocative synths? Add on top of that a group dynamic that understands how to blend pop vocals with aggression. At one point the lead singer broke into a punk rap shouting with her fists shacking “Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge.” The band just released their EP – Broken Promise Land, and though this was their first bunch of North American shows, it won’t be their last.

Suddenly, The Preatures were on stage. The Preatures are that too cool for school girl who everyone had a crush on, who discovers cigarettes before everyone else, wears clothes that are out of fashion, but wears them with attitude, and despite this standoffish cool, they just don’t give a fuck either way. Your unhealthy obsession will never be reciprocated, The Preatures will never love you as much as you do them, but they will give you the best times of your life. And they’ll do it with an intriguing accent. Instantly the songs are sexually tense, shoulder rocking tunes. They evoke Elvis Presley dancing with David Bowie, Joan Jett whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The female lead singer of the band is the only important person in the room, effortlessly exuding her music. As the heat increased, she took her shirt off, leaving only a white sports bra underneath, and the photographers all rushed to snap her picture. As the set climaxed in the perfect “Is This How You Feel?”, the lead singer upended a water bottle on her head and destroyed the room with a single glance. The audience was wet for The Preatures.

Venue hopping is more than half the experience. For maximum efficiency Ludlow street offers three venues sitting right beside each other. Much like the expansiveness of CMJ, you can pop in and catch a guitar Americana virtuoso, head into the groggy cellar of a venue to discover the straight edge punk you thought you left behind in high school, or over to the appropriately named Tween tearing up a set with the crowd still ecstatic at midnight on a Thursday.

These are bands you should be paying attention to. Make them your favorite band, go out and see them in concert. There’s still more CMJ to come, and even more amazing music to discover.

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