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Nigerian-born Nneka’s 21st century take on Afrobeat has won her opening gigs for Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz and a slot on the forthcoming Lilith Fair. She spoke to PopMatters about studying in Germany and the linguistic diversity of her native Africa.
It’s quite remarkable, really: when they take the stage, the members of the Smith Westerns project a world-weary disinterest that performers twice their age would be hard pressed to match. Everything else about them, however, screams youthful exuberance, from their willingness to strike rock god poses (an additional spotlight that was trained on guitarist Max Kakacek was turned on only during solos) down to the magic marker ‘X’s on their hands. Barreling through a set of ramshackle garage-rock that pointed, unabashedly, toward the monsters of glam, psych and classic rock, the band made no bones about their ambitions. When someone yelled out, “Play the hits!” frontman Cullen Omori coolly snapped back, “They’re all hits”, without missing a beat.
Opening act So Cow took a very different stance toward the audience, though their lo-fi indie-pop was no less rewarding. Playing mostly tracks off of their self-titled singles collection (they also have a new full-length LP, Meaningless Friendly, out on Tic-Tac-Totally), the Irish bedroom-pop act was bouncy, engaging and tons of fun. When frontman Brian Kelly’s glasses started slipping off of his face, he unhesitatingly handed them to a girl in the front row. “Can you put these in a bag or a pocket?” he asked, politely. “Just keep them safe.”
I had no idea what to expect walking into Le Poisson Rouge Tuesday night to see Micachu and the Shapes perform. Would this be the musical extravaganza I had hoped, or just another unmemorable downtown Manhattan hipster sweat factory? After Tanlines’ opening set, one began to get the feeling that it would be the latter. While definitely holding the crowd’s attention, their routine sound didn’t do much for me.
Omnipresent at CMJ last fall were the xx and their white X monogram. They played the Today show, along with countless other showcases, were the critical darlings of NME, released a universally acclaimed eponymous debut record, xx, and licensing deals flourished, like the prominent 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games AT&T ad featuring Apollo Anton Ohno—a reference overheard several times as a packed Webster Hall waited for the young Londoners to commence their first American headlining tour. Their meteoric rise has been swift—possibly even overwhelming. Former fourth member Baria Qureshi left the group shortly after CMJ.