Transforming small stages: the CMJ model


by Samuel Hernandez

Fridays are for finding yourself in a dive somewhere in New York City that actually happens to be just two blocks from where you used to live and work. You never even thought that this place could exist. Thursday nights are random escapades through the lower east side raving obnoxiously in your music pretentious way that “I’m so pumped to see Zola Jesus, but really playing an unofficial show at the Standard Hotel? It’s a little too red velvet rope douchey for my taste,” despite the fact that Zola’s operatic mixing and dominating vocals are perfect for the Standard Hotels tea candle vibe. CMJ we’ve all got opinions, but nothing is truer than the fact that small stages are going to radically change when boasting bands set up their instruments.

Friday afternoon Willow Wood Music and Atypical Beasts Agency brought together British invasion style punk with indie progressive rock. Rounding out the showcase Taymir brought their Netherlands originated pop punk call it what you will four guys in a band with long hair and slight accents making danceable but often times head banging chunky indie rock. “What Would You Say” is an instant classic for ready for the streets punk rockers, an anthem without being overblown or trite. At CMJ they filled their spot, overran, and unfortunately didn’t have enough time to really get the crowd roaring along with their antic inspiring songs.

And then there is the Brooklyn-based Gold Lake whose debut album is preparing to drop on November 4th. Their music is sensual with enough space given for keyboards, guitar, drums, bass, and vocals to coexist to create something that is tinged with electropop but isn’t quite, has prog rock guitar riffs but never approaches the absurdity, and leaves with just a little bit of a melancholy mellow vibe. Their keyboard was draped in gold, their singer was draped in gold, and the songs that came from her and her band mates were near effortless.

CMJ may as well have ended with Matthew Dear’s “NY awakens sleeping beasts” performance at the packed club/bar Verboten. His performance was a menagerie of whatever confusing genre descriptions you want to include from micro-house (as if his seamless blend of electronica makes his music bombastic club sweating without the club sweating) or electronic rock. The disco ball toured across expectant faces as he worked through familiar and unfamiliar versions of his songs, always hinting at the progression that his music takes, the next step in waiting that could be around the corner.

Late into the night on a Saturday, ending a week already filled with small bars, packed clubs, big bands, and friendlier sounds, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Image courtesy of the Willow Wood Music

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