CMJ 2011 Day 1: Wild Flag + Eleanor Friedberger + Hospitality

An amazing evening of music from a group of female-fronted acts kicks CMJ off with enormous, life-affirming fanfare. Wild Flag, Eleanor Friedberger and Hospitality at the Bowery Ballroom on 10/18.


Hospitality should be doing quite well for itself by this time next year. No longer a more stripped-down affair, the band now plays a winning brand of warm, Americana-inflected rock, with just a touch of twee. Vocalist Amber Papini proved herself a natural charmer, leading her group with a disarming sort of speak-singing, while her male bandmates provided airy falsetto harmonies in a higher register. The guitar work here usually stayed in solidly melodic, Wilco-toward-Belle-&-Sebastian territory, creating quietly resonant waves of gentle melancholy; however, occasional -- and very fleeting -- bursts of dissonance brought a welcome St. Vincent-esque sense of adventure to a few tunes. Though Papini often seemed to be singing about loss (more than one track alluded to a lover leaving for Japan), she and Hospitality do what classic American pop-rock does best: they make sadness sound pretty happy. It’s difficult to imagine not feeling better with Papini’s songs on your soundtrack.

Hospitality - Friends of Friends by MergeRecords


Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor Friedberger, one half of much-loved art-rock duo Fiery Furnaces, recently released her solo debut, Last Summer. To many Furnaces fans, the record must have sounded like something of a surprise: where that band trades in self-consciously difficult and forward-thinking arrangements, Friedberger’s solo material harks back to simple, radio-friendly ‘70’s rock. She began the evening’s set with a quick solo number, the unrecorded “Stare at the Sun”, wowing the crowd with her confidence and natural stage presence (she looks to be roughly nine feet tall) before her band entered. Friedberger dressed the part of a rock star, clad in an arena-ready ensemble of yellow Oxford, orange cords, loose paisley jacket, and ankle boots, but she brings an air of camaraderie to the stage, all contagious earnestness and no aloof posturing. She manages to do so while conjuring up the titans of the ‘70s-to-early-‘80s golden age of female singer-songwriters: Patti Smith, Joan Jett, The Pretenders, Joni Mitchell -- all of these disparate artists show their mark on Friedberger’s material. With her rapid-fire and vivid lyrics, her clear mastery of the guitar as emotional tool, and her steady, unpretentious delivery, Friedberger could soon prove herself a worthy heir to those classic artists, too.


Wild Flag

By the time Wild Flag finished their scorching set, every band labeled as “chillwave” had burst into flames, forever. You’re welcome. The return of Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss (not to mention Helium's Mary Timony) to making music saw critics and fans alike swoon like schoolchildren. And for good reason -- these women are some of the most talented musicians of the past several decades. We need them around. Wild Flag’s set at the Bowery Ballroom had the feel of a Greatest Hits show, even though the band has only recently released its first album. The crowd devoured every chord and cymbal crash, proving that tracks like pogo-friendly “Romance” and the searing “Racehorse” are already on their way to becoming classics. Brownstein is a rock goddess, bounding around the stage with a swagger that would make even Kanye West doubt himself; she ran through an arsenal of high kicks and power windmills and bass-drum-jumping all while handling her Gibson SG like a fifth limb. Mary Timony provided a nice contrast to Brownstein’s aggression, projecting a slightly stoned, slightly silly, completely endearing attitude as she tapped out knotty solos (sometimes with her guitar atop her head). Imagine what a Wild Flag show will sound like in a few years, when the band has three records of insta-classics under their belts.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.