CMJ 2011: Pepper Rabbit + Active Child + Braids
Music Hall of Williamsburg presents a alternative/indie side of the CMJ music scene on 10/21.
L.A. based Pepper Rabbit writes carefully-crafted indie pop songs with avant-garde folk influences, however the stripped down approach to their performance never matched the intensity of their studio releases. Although frontman Xander Singh started the set with a shout out, “Hello everybody”, he was more interested in taking swigs of beer between songs then communicating with his fans. Together with drummer Luc Laurent, the band has two albums under their belt, Beauregard (2010) and Red Velvet Snow Ball (2011). The group looked like they were enjoying recreating the music live, with Singh’s vocals in soaring crescendos across the venue. Yet even when the tempo picked up, tour member Jonathan Allen, on bass, danced around with his back to the crowd. It just seemed as though the audience was witnessing a basement rehearsal, without anyone else in the room.
Pat Grossi grew up as a choir boy in New Jersey, which exposed him to classical music and the world through concert performances. A few years ago, he started learning the harp and writing songs to begin the journey as Active Child. Now based in L.A., Grossi is touring as a trio (percussion, keyboards) in support of his new debut release, You Are All I See. Beyond a quick introduction for the band, Grossi focused on the business of playing music during the set, even asking the audience if they could hear the harp well enough at one point (Grossi also switched over to play a keyboard for a few songs). Grossi relies on his mesmerizing falsetto as the centerpiece for lush, introspective musical soundscapes -- an original but limited repertoire as a harp is restricted to the same key and each song projects a down tempo mood.
Braids is an experimental alt-rock quartet from Montreal, formed by high school friends in Calgary previously known as the Neighborhood Council. The band’s anthemic songs off their first full-length release, Native Speaker, are innovative shoegaze music that their fans can still dance to with their arms folded. Raphaelle Standell-Preston began the set with the announcement that she just caught the flu, saying ironically how she “felt like a million bucks”. Still her lavishly textured vocals powered through the night, while looking out wide-eyed over the heads of the audience. Katie Lee provided counterpoint to the vocals as well as a virtuosic approach on keyboards. Taylor Smith (guitar, additional electronic widgets) and Austin Tufts (drums) completed the line up to create complicated layers for their intelligent compositions.