CMJ 2011 Day 1: Street Chant + Cairo Knife Fight

The tail end of the New Zealand Showcase.

As the 2011 CMJ Music Marathon kicked off, I found myself at Le Poisson Rouge to check out the tail end of the New Zealand showcase. American pop culture has welcomed NZ folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords into its embrace, but there are numerous Kiwi bands that still have to make a splash, from Fat Freddy’s Drop to Anika Moa to Shapeshifter. However the NZ showcase itself has had some success introducing artists like Liam Finn (son of Neil Finn), the Ruby Suns and Lawrence Arabia to audiences in the states. This year’s bill included seven artists, Princess Chelsea, Andrew Keoghan, Pikachunes, the Golden Awesome, Popstrangers, Street Chant, and Cairo Knife Fight, none of which I was familiar with but I had hoped to see simply because of their roots.

Street Chant

An aggressive Auckland trio, Street Chant (formerly Mean Streets), is made up of Emily, Billie and Alex, and they are a band to watch out for. After a successful appearance at CMJ 2010, and picking up a Critic’s Choice Award at the NZ Music Awards, the band was quite welcome back to perform at this year’s CMJ. Their music brought back thoughts of the defunct group Sleater-Kinney (or perhaps the band was on my mind as I knew PopMatters’ writer Corey Beasley was at Wild Flag around the same time) though the drummer was male. Due to some inaudible vocals, I was not able to pick out the songs, but I could tell I wanted to hear more. Performing songs from their debut album Means, Street Chant’s tight performance left me thinking how would the next band fare alongside them?


Cairo Knife Fight

Cairo Knife Fight closed out the showcase with an explosive performance that was all the more memorable because there were just two members of the band. As the guitar and drum combo built up a level of sound in the dark light and I noticed that drummer Nick Gaffaney was doing the singing -- it dawned on me he was looping his sounds. Their three-song set was heavy on the guitar; the first track alone was an instrumental monster (unfortunately the vocals were hard to discern in the mix) that I was not expecting. Guitarist Aaron Tokona hammered away at his instrument. His chords in the third song had hints of classic Guns ‘n’ Roses, and then his headband and swagger made me think of Axl, but the song proved the rock chops of the band as Gaffaney’s rhythms had a few in the audience stomping along.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

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

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