CMJ Day 1 – 10/20/09

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm
Fanfarlo pleading to the crowd at Pianos with their baroque sensibilities.

Fanfarlo pleading to the crowd at Pianos with their baroque sensibilities.

On the first day of CMJ, a pleasant wind helped warm up the-until-then tepid reception of the annual festival as it got on to a leisurely yet spirited start. Only a handful of day parties and in-store appearances meant fewer options than normal during CMJ sunlight hours. But in the little universe that falls between Stanton and Rivington on Ludlow St, two surprising centerpieces of the whole event quietly but quite noticeably made a loud entrance statement to the badge-holders and passersby at Pianos and Cake Shop.

Both Fanfarlo, who played Pianos at 4:00pm Tuesday, and Surfer Blood, who went on at Cake Shop’s bottom floor stage at around 5:00pm, came to this year’s CMJ with some to accomplish. Despite their different backgrounds and even further-off musical leanings, they share a plan: a star grab for the top.

In Fanfarlo’s case, its through playing, in addition to Pianos, a couple top or near-top bill slots at two of the festival’s larger showcases. Those shows are at Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg, where the lucky buzz bands go during CMJ to hopefully shine and be truly heard.

But before all that, uh, fanfare, the English band had to play a quick gig in the dark and quirky back room of the LES mainstay. Without the of luxuries available to them at their upcoming larger venues, say, like, sound checks, the London-based six piece brought their enigmatic baroque pop with them to the fullest, playing a varied and energized set to an anxious crowd eager to be wowed on this first day of the festival.

Group leader Simon Balthazar.

Group leader Simon Balthazar.

Their performance rang heavy throughout the venue, with a floating demureness translucently hiding the music’s often-epic qualities. Tightly bowed violin strings and long bursts of horns punctuated grandiose songs like the Wall’s Are Comin Down, bringing a warm immediacy with their long sonorous melodies. The band made great use of momentum and dynamics with robust added percussion in I’m a Pilot, a song that sometimes steered a little too closely into Arcade Fire territory. Regardless, leader Simon Balthazar and the band keep the moodiness of the music at bay, just enough to succeed, by showing heaps of excitement and honest expression throughout their set.

After the show, Balthazar apologized for what he said was a “slightly shambolic” performance. From the crowd’s view, it was nothing but a tightly crafted bottle of energy unleashed. Dancing and swapping roles around stage, the members thoroughly felt caught up in their own grand call. With the music they’ve chosen to make so far, Fanfarlo stand in big shadows; but their hearts and impressive instrumentation hint at an innovative musical well lying under their feet, waiting to be tapped.

For Surfer Blood, the path to CMJ glory is a little bit longer. Or at least a tad more hectic. With what must be a festival high of 12 CMJ-related appearances in 5 days, they might work less if they bludgeoned everyone in the head with their record in an effort to get them to listen. It’s admirable that they were ready and willing though. When they announced their non-stop schedule to the crowd, and one person made a weird face, they were quick with a stern rebuttal. Either way, in it for the long hall, they had their work cut out for them. They moved right along with their first set at the daytime Pop Tarts Suck Toasted CMJ Kickoff Party.

Surfer Blood pushing their music forward at Cake Shop.

Surfer Blood pushing their music forward at Cake Shop.

The glow on the faces of the Florida band members as they launched into a rowdy power pop shakedown said how ready they were to be there. Songs like Swim (to reach the end) have a heavy, echoy girth, mixing polyrhythmic interludes with soaring, sweet choruses. The rising delays and traumatic howling guitar swaths in Harmonix (yes the song opens with guitar harmonics, if you had to ask) showcase a further reaching desire, one that the music might otherwise not predict.

Your average surfer band isn’t supposed to mix gravitas in with their sugary sun-drenched hominy, but somewhere blended in all that, was the soul of a mischievous and heady experiment. Surfer Blood stretched the limits of a well-worn genre by both exaggerating its calling cards and completely eschewing them by adding noise, strong contrapuntal parts, and rambunctious extra percussion (they have a whole kit set up of woodblocks, for god’s sake). If they can keep up all that experimental rambunctiousness, and continue churning out riffs that would make Rivers Cuomo think back to when he was good; if they can keep that going through their killer stretch, then they’ll have a good change at grabbing up their own piece of CMJ success, the old fashioned way.






Surfer Blood




The World has yet to meet…The Bird Superior

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm
Supérieur des Oiseaux

Supérieur des Oiseaux

Hiding amongst the regular birds, flocking, gossiping, mating, caught in daily avian pursuits, the Bird Superior watches and quietly disseminates. He gives off radiance and searing, painful awareness. He is not known by most, beyond the influence he dictates with the rumblings through the streets he creates, those poignant statements rushing forward from his collective appreciation for the world’s most humbly generous muses. Through its cultural resonance, the seimsmographical interpretation of our existence has been analyzed, expanded on, and has been vehemently rebuked. But we have always been better as a result, thanks to his efforts.

The Bird Superior would now, finally, like to introduce himself.  Think of him as less of a bird and as more of an effervescent flame of cultural direction. Interact heavily, since birds always have something to talk about and permanently retain a desire to fly with linguistic wings pushed by winds of artistic fervor. He will be your greatest compatriot in the windy wilderness.