CMJ marathon: five-hour showcase proves music is alive at Bowery Ballroom
October 17th saw CMJ take over the iconic Bowery Ballroom for one of the week’s many showcases to promote up-and-coming artists. The lineup: Solid Gold, Pacific Air, San Cisco, SKATERS, and Local Natives.
Solid Gold started off the night with their brand of indie dance and pop by playing songs with funky basslines and ever-present grooves – even in the slower songs. Rhythm seemed to be the driving force in their music as many tunes built around a drum beat that never lost its prominence when layers of guitar and synth were added.
Next up was Pacific Air, with frontmen looking like Morrissey worshippers in black button-downs and 80s alt-style bouffants. It wasn’t surprising then, when infectious melodies and hooks began to fill the room. Like their apparent inspirations, each member was truly well-versed in their chosen instruments, evident in their few moments of extended soloing.
Aussies San Cisco took the stage afterwards, infusing the venue with a laidback edge that only a group from a city near the beach can exude. Though playing with no real sense of urgency, San Cisco’s music is undeniably peppy and sunny, and it was written over each member’s face that they are sincerely happy to be doing what they’re doing.
The standout support group was SKATERS, a three-piece based in New York joined by two touring members, including musician-turned-model-turned-musician Matthew Hitt (also of The Drowners). They played the most high energy set of the night, pouring out tunes drenched in punk sensibilities with pure rock ‘n’ roll attitude and occasional bluesy guitar solos. SKATERS look like a bunch of derelict pretty boys in oversized clothing and messy hair, especially frontman Michael Ian Cummings, who puts on the airs that he’d rather be anywhere else but on stage.
Headliners Local Natives had the advantage of being the act that the vast majority of the room was there to see, and it was obvious that feeding off the crowd’s love of their music drove them to perform at their best. Their songs can best be described as mini soundscapes—with members Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, and Ryan Hahn effortlessly switching between multiple instruments and joining in three-part harmonies to create rich layers and lush spaces. A cover of Talking Head’s Warning Sign and encore closer Sun Hands proved to be the most enthralling numbers of their set because of the opportunities provided for impassioned vocals and frenzied jamming.
CMJ shows the industry that regardless of what cranky sycophants of decades past like to believe, today’s music scene is just as vibrant and full of talent as any past era. Each band that played in the Champion Showcase proved that Top 40 radio is certainly no indication of music in 2012. Those in the audience who stayed for the entire concert left feeling particularly satisfied – it was five hours well spent.
Photos: Amanda Stockwell
To see the list of all artists involved with CMJ, visit the event’s website here.
Watch the video for SKATERS’ Schemers here: