CMJ Day One: Dominique Young Unique, DOM, Yo La Tengo
Amidst discussions of its relevancy and efficacy, assaults on its cool factor, and a bubbling undercurrent of general malaise over the pace and current of culture, CMJ 2010 kicked off yesterday in New York City. Some bajillion-odd bands are here, and some of those will be sustainably popular for many web years to come, and most will go home empty-handed. No reviewer or critic can or will claim they really "succeeded" here because no one quite knows what they're doing, save following their nose. So here we go.
After picking up the badge that will later save me at least 45 minutes in line, the Lower East Side is a no-brainer destination. With so many venues in such a small area it should be easy to find a show this early in the day, though I can't be said to know the specifics like where, what, or who. Ludlow is brimming at 3PM with artists, managers, bookers, nerdos, and beautiful people. Heading upstairs at Pianos I catch a bland band from Tennessee whose name escapes me (well that's not entirely true, they never mentioned it and it wasn't posted anywhere).
It's worth noting something about music festivals. The power of ratio reigns any time thousands of bands play within fifteen square miles of each other. I am, we are, strictured by the ratios; most of these bands suck and if you pick at random you will likely come up losing. This means a certain balance mechanic of buzz and research reigns, which in turn means that at least a few dozen truly good bands won't get seen by anyone and ho-hum on home.
Downstairs at Pianos a Brooklyn-based three-piece named Pearl & The Beard were just underway - theirs is a sort of lilting folk-pop and between the cello, acoustic guitar, brushed toms, and large harmonies they generated a sweet, wind-through-the-wheat set that was well put-together and just so, like a little plum.
Pearl And The Beard, "Vessel"
The MTV Showcase at Webster Hall at 6:30PM was sparse, peppered with tiny tiny babies looking no older than 19. There to meet a friend I arrived and I sat sipping a beer and braced myself. Firstly was Fake Problems, a band of young Floridian dreamboats whose music is as close to Modest Mouse as you can get without being good. "Tap tap your feet to your heartbeat." I left immediately.
Next was the completely flabbergasting Dominique Young Unique, also of Florida. Stepping onstage in a red corset (this will matter in a second) and huge sunglasses, Dominique beamed, giving everyone an oddly patronizing "thank you!" like when someone asks you to do something, launching into her shrill, rapid rap delivery. Her corset was at least one size too big for her and kept slipping throughout the show, holding her back in a big way. Flanked by two gearheads generating frenetic, aggressive club beats that left no breathing room for interpretation (much like her rhymes), Dominique is of a frenetic frontlady cloth that will no doubt appeal to the young and the restless. Overheard: "CMJ is so totally irrelevant."
Scheduled to play Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Bowl were Screaming Females (missed), DOM, and Yo La Tengo; a lineup that would no doubt generate a long line, and I was arriving late. Swallowed it up and moved to the back of the block-long queue, only to be pulled out ten minutes later and deposited directly inside (thanks, badge). Brooklyn Bowl was festooned with projection screens touting MOG, the event's sponsor and blog network turned fairly successful music subscription startup.
"Hail Satan!" DOM, a major label band of rather hairy plaid-clads, was onstage as I entered, blasting out what I took to be rather boring, if well executed, garage rock. But each song took on a different character, between that aforementioned rock and some reedy pop and video-game rock a la The Advantage, and when they ended a pleasant confusion set in.
Yo La Tengo meandered their way through a set they've been perfecting for over two decades, and it was as talented and lengthy as it was soporific. Having spent the previous three days seeing friends and running around like a madman, it was time for bed.
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