Going into the Metal Blade/Relapse/Lifeforce showcase I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I know is I needed desperately to get away from the scene I was in, and get a glimpse of some metal (which is highly underappreciated among the CMJ folk). This or the Apocalypse was a pretty good way to start making my ears bleed a little. Banking on a new era of hardcore/thrash, these relatively young chaps weren’t screwing around. Playing to one of the smaller audiences I’d seen at CMJ thus far (once again, the metal factor), they still gave a valid, solid performance to a small crowd of hardcore devotees.
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This English trio have obviously been catching up on their early ‘90s quintessential indie rock and emo and formulating their own style upon that style. Not exactly a bad thing, but at certain times they were shooting for Built to Spill, others they were shooting for Sunny Day Real Estate type riffage. It’s fun to listen to on the surface level, but not much else. If that’s what they are going for, then they succeeded. But to provide an audience of industry folk with a formulaic sound is like sticking your hand on the stove to make sure its hot—frankly, a bad idea.
With much hype built around Michael Angelakos’ so-called project for his girlfriend (his songs started as a belated Valentine’s Day gift), it didn’t deliver much. Granted, Angelakos and his band were complaining about their synths not working properly, and that could’ve had something to do with it—but for me the songs just didn’t carry over live too well. They couldn’t find the right balance between all their equipment and the sound was just off. Something was always louder than everything else. The EP is great, and perhaps in a not so rushed environment the songs will fare better onstage.
Walking into the Fader party I was just hoping to get one of their delightful free drinks, but actually ended up forcing myself up front to see what was coming from the speakers. Fast, uncompromising beats started off minimally and built, layer upon layer, until you couldn’t avoid the sound. With a heavy implementation of laptop rock, this Brooklyn duo also used constant guitar lines to provide their sound with more substance. Even reverb soaked vocals would wind their way in from time to time and fit the musical meld perfectly. One of the better finds at CMJ, hands down.
If I knew anything more about Pela outside of their Thursday night performance at Mercury Lounge, I’d probably hate them. Pela strike me as a glorified bar band that—as evidenced by a small horde of young girls that lined the front of the stage—has a following. They put forth a brand of unapologetic, straightforward rock led by a charismatic frontman whose ambition likely outweighs his ability. That said—these guys can play. At face value, they gave one of the best performances I’ve seen thus far at CMJ. Pela galvanized a crowd subdued by the quieter Frances, utilizing a phenomenal group chemistry to lift the Mercury Lounge from a state of suspended animation. In a city where a holier than thou attitude can often reign over a performance, the unabashed lust for rocking Pela brought was refreshing.