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CMJ 2009: Day 2 - Free Energy + Ungdomskulen + Deastro + Cymbals Eat Guitars

The CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival invades New York City this week. Here's the latest from PopMatters' writers on the beat. Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

Free Energy

Santos Party House, New York City

“This is all we got tonight,” sang Free Energy in raggedy, homespun harmonies. It was the sentiment, however, not the vocals, which resonated in their early set. They played an agreeable synthesis of classic, at times psychedelic, rock (two raging, and dueling, Epiphone Les Pauls) and post-punk dance music (propulsive rhythms and a skinny, dancing front man), instantly becoming the best bar band around without even playing a cover. Whether their sound could convince a dance floor is dubious, despite their tambourine and cowbell qualifications. As new additions to the DFA family, though, I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong reasonably soon.


Santos Party House, New York City

Melodic cowbells and distortion drenched guitar and six-string bass lines were at the top of the order for this Norwegian trio. While their meandering metal melodies ebbed and flowed with precision and force (not unlike an Allman Brothers twilight zone) their sound was pretty much upstaged by their blinding stage moves—and ridiculously bedazzled outfits. Their last song, “Spartacus,” was defacto dance metal, with hard charging distorted progressions, shouts and response, and the constant leg kicks and jumping to top even the best exercise video. The band more or less personified Red Bull: European, energetic, daring, reckless, and relentless.


Santos Party House, New York City

I’ve never understood the type of band that plays CMJ only to spend at least half their brief set up time hanging up their own primitive lighting scheme. With Christmas lights out of the way Deastro, the alter-ego of Randolph Chabot, proceeded with a set that was mostly one-man-band karaoke, augmented with a live bass player and Chabot’s haphazard guitar-strumming. Mostly Chabot seemed like he was running late and, consequently, his equipment was splayed all over the stage. His disheveled set followed suit. The only highlight was “Kurgan Wave Number One” when Chabot wrapped himself in his holiday lights belting, “Where were you when I needed you.”

Cymbals Eat Guitars

Santos Party House, New York City

At this point in the night I still hadn’t heard the bass of Santos’ sound system rumble. So viscerally therapeutic it’s like luging down a gravel sledding hill. It’s profound to say the least. Instead Joe D’Agostino, or Joe Ferocious, as he confirmed, led his band through a sweaty, fast, and robust set of garage rock Wednesday night, his guitar tearing through the room. After what seemed like perspiring a gallon and setting some sort of strumming-rate milestone, D’Agostino et al had the relatively full crowd enthralled--thanks to the triangle the keyboardist was packing no doubt.

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