Because Thursday, Day 3 of CMJ, was a literal marathon (I saw SEVEN bands) I’ll try to keep each artist description down to just a few lines. First, at around 5pm I peeked into Rockwood Music Hall, a rustic, intimate venue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I caught the tail end portion of Kris Gruen‘s indie folk set. He’s got strong but cozy vocals, and a stunningly tight and seasoned live show that seemed far too good and spot-on to be showcased on such a small stage. After him came goodbye motel, an indie rock band from Australia. They have a real solid, soaring-type sound and are gripping live; the only thing missing is consistent hooks, but I’m confident they’ll get there soon.
I walked over to Bowery Ballroom and caught opening British act Gabriel Bruce. This guy’s one of the most electrifying frontmen that I’ve seen, with an Elvis-like zest to him (and backup singers/dancers in tow!); and I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t jive and shake my hips half as good as he can. He’s been referred to as a crazed mesh of Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen and well…that’s pretty accurate. After him came super hot commodity Sky Ferreira. The young ’80s-indebted electro-pop star, who was giddy with a case of some nervous/excited giggles, came with an incredible light show, making the rock venue seem more like a bumpin’ club. But for all the sweet, infectious bounce in her music, Ferreira has some real pipes, too. During the course of her set, which included many tracks off her new Ghost EP, she convinced me that she’s much, much more than just another throwaway pop act.
I hopped a cab and rushed over to Irving Plaza because, thanks to a tip from Property of Zack writer, Jesse Richman, I learned that Daryl Palumbo (of Glassjaw and Head Automatica fame) would be performing with his new band Color Film. I used to follow all of Palumbo’s work when I was in high school and was more than happy to see what he was up to. So, what does Color Film sound like? Maybe a tad more (new wave-y) melodic than Glassjaw. That is to say: intense, ear-shattering, screech/yelp rock. After them came local indie rock band Bear Hands. For whatever dumb reason, part of the crowd would not stop booing them. I don’t think it was because they hated the Brooklyn group, but because they were tired of rock music. You see, it was primarily a hip-hop showcase with two (very randomly thrown in) rock bands. But still, c’mon, show a little respect, New York. I’d seen them before and they were great as usual.
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Before leaving the venue, I caught the first few songs of Killer Mike‘s set. The Atlanta-born rapper had an unbelievable energy and ability to get the audience riled up with many spits about politics and the election and his claim that he “didn’t come to dance or party,” but to “burn this motherfucker down.” I would’ve stayed longer, but…
I had to hop a taxi back to Bowery Ballroom because I didn’t want to miss MS MR. The electronica duo, with hints of soul and Florence Welch-like vocal leanings, played many songs off their newly released Candy Bar Creep Show EP. MS, Lizzy Plapinger, had a badass, rebel look going on, with a black leather jacket, white mini skirt and pink streaks in her blonde hair. She came off with equal parts fun, sensual, and sassy, and really pushed the entire set forward. Much like Sky Ferreira, MS MR is equipped with enough real vocal chops and music sensibilities to be considered FAR more than just another simple, run-of-the-mill pop flavor of the month — and to do so would be a grave injustice.