CMJ 2014 started off on a Tuesday and continues through the weekend giving a lot of unseen, unheard and unsigned bands a chance to catch the attention of a music blogger or critic (of which there are plenty at any given showcase). As I have done for the past couple of years, I made my first CMJ showcase stop the New Zealand showcase, though this time it moved from LPR to Webster Hall. While enjoying some savory pies, I caught electro-pop singer Chelsea Jade and the band Doprah. However, I knew that Jukebox the Ghost were doing a launch party for their latest, self-titled album at a swank hotel’s rooftop, so I had to cut out early to see the pop band. It was the first time drummer Jesse Kristin sung a song in public (from what I understood)! But their set ended around 9 and, as the CMJ schedule has music for hours and hours, I just wandered back to Webster Hall to see another poppy band, Little Daylight as part of a showcase with Tiny Victories, Carousel and more. For a while it seemed like Tiny Victories set would be cut short as the showcase was behind schedule, but they did get in a song or two after doing a Tom Petty cover. The light crowd appreciated the extra opportunity to dance along. Then the crowd continued to dance stage during Little Daylight’s set, which too had a cover, Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.
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Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen, aka Bahamas, is a regular in the social scene / musical circles of his country and has a loyal following in these United States. If considering his self-appointed moniker, the sunny islands of the Bahamas might not be the first connection you make when you think of a musician from Canada. However the music Jurvanen creates is far more evocative of ocean-side bonfires and hot, sunny days with its easy going tunes than anything else. It is also fitting that Bahamas has signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records for the release of his third album, Bahamas is Afie, for which he is currently touring to support with fellow Canadian Tamara Hope (The Weather Station) opening for him (and him sitting in on drums for her).
I hadn’t seen the band Spoon since last year’s Governors Ball Festival but they finally came back around to the area for a proper show at Rumsey Playfield (aka Summerstage though that City Parks Foundation series is over) in Central Park. The band are touring on the back of their latest album They Want My Soul and this performance showed the audience how consistently good they are (as our critic Matthew Fiander wrote, “This is another very good Spoon record, but it’s not the same as any other Spoon record. It is also a record that, in the ways it continues and twists the band’s sound, reminds us that Spoon put in a lot of work to find their sound.”) and how cohesive all of Spoon’s material sounds together.
The Village Voice had noted that, “Got Nuffin” roars onstage as much as it did when it was new, but what really stood out was how seamlessly the new songs have already woven their way into the set. “New York Kiss” got a huge cheer when it began, because of course/why not. “Rent I Pay,” in particular, already came off like a classic Spoon song.” And it was with “Knock Knock Knock” and “Rent I Pay” that Spoon had kicked things off on the lovely late-Summer evening. The band was in fine form throughout the night and, except for Britt Daniel, quite often in the shadows, with their silhouettes cast upon screens around the stage. Before their conclusion, Spoon performed the dark and dancey, “I Turn My Camera On”, which is one of my favorites and then included another of my favorites, “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” in their finale.
If you are a fan of hip-hop, you owe it to yourself to catch the ‘Renegades of Rhythm Tour’ currently making its way across the states. For this event, two renowned turntablists, DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) and Cut Chemist (Lucas MacFadden) sifted through the historic and legendary record collection of Afrika Bambaataa to create a 90-plus-minute set encompassing all of hip-hop that they are currently touring (dates below). At New York’s Irving Plaza, Bambaataa himself was present in the balcony enjoying the proceedings and perhaps watching with a bit of diligence, given the duo were working with some rare acetates, demos, originals that he has owned, and maybe even performed with, for the past few decades. In an introduction, Shadow held up a record for the audience to show them the giant chunk missing from the near the edge, yet they still planned to spin it in their set. Also on site was hip-hop photographer Joe Conzo, both working from the pit alongside the media and displaying a gallery of his own legendary pieces of hip-hop history from the ‘70s and ‘80s in New York.
It’s easy to miss Constellation—I nearly did. The venue, tucked into a small row of brick buildings in Chicago’s North Side, has no flashy sign or major distinguishing marker on its unassuming front face. Its placement near an underpass brings to mind the phrase “hole in the wall.” But on an otherwise ordinary Sunday evening, the intimate venue, which has the layout of a chamber theatre, was given a potent dose of music, spanning a broad range of contemporary art music. Quite a lot of music filled the small space.
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