24 October 2007

For the Pink Palace in the sky... -- Bands Twenty-One (21) to Twenty-Seven (27); Day 5

At 11 PM Saturday night, over 120 hours since I first began my CMJ journey, I stood on a Manhattan subway platform, patiently waiting for the L train. "So, would you do it again next year?" a friend asked. "Ask me again in a month," I told her, unable to muster a reasonable answer between the shrill pitch of the buzzing in my ears and spinning of my head. By this point, I no longer remembered what the inside of my eyelids looked like, I had forgotten the sound of silence, and I probably couldn't even tell you my name were it not printed on the all-access badge in my back pocket -- the laminated card that had come to replace my identity and soul. But I was revitalized by Indian food and coasting on adrenaline. Oh, and triumph.

Believe it or not, the impending train was to take me on my victory lap. To the winner's circle. An encore, if you will. Matt & Kim -- my 27th New York City band during the five days of 2007's annual College Music Journal Marathon. But first, a recap of the final six.

There's nothing like a little bit of home field advantage so in the afternoon I headed over to the Deli's unofficial CMJ party at Fontana's for a generous helping of hometown bands, planning to catch a few acts before parading up the Bowery for my last few bands. Who would've thought I wouldn't be able to tear myself away from the dark ambiance of Fontana's downstairs stage and the blooming NYC acts that graced it? The rundown...

Six to go. Radio America took the stage with some stunning three-part harmonies, the likes of which I haven't seen from an all male group since the last time I caught the Beach Boys live. But really, these boys had more of an E Street Band or Aerosmith vibe than the breezy sway of Endless Summer. Young, strapping fellows, Radio America probably have cool fathers because they know their classic rock. With the reverence of the Hold Steady and a little punk rock kick, the scorching dueling guitar solos were straight up face-melting.

One down, five to go. The Velocet somehow made 80s post-punk ballsy, like if Robert Smith could toss a pigskin. The guitars didn't so much wander as attack and the creeping rasp to Michael Davidson's voice had a ferociousness that's missing from a lot of the lemme-whisper-you-my-secrets "rock" of today.

Four to the floor. The next band was like a spoonful of Robitussin without Poppins and her goddamn sugar -- that garbage is for kids. Undersea Explosion, on the other hand, are men. Rapping on a cowbell, their lead singer didn't play with dance-punk irony, instead looking like he really wanted to make a dent in the thing. Behind him was a vigorous distorted bass and hints of some Sonic Youth discordance, but more apparent was a sludgy grit like the desert rock of Queens of the Stone Age.

Twenty-three plus 1 = Anthem In. The thing with this band is that by the time they got to their last song, "Down," I started to wish they just would've played it 6 times over, filling their whole set. A&R is asleep at the wheel on this one because with its disco beat high-hats and lyrics about the "dancefloor" there is no way this song is anything but a chart-topper. It's not even that their other songs are no good, but with something as contagious as "Dance," your job is done.

By this point I could pretty much taste it but when Bella Watt took the stage they exuded a freshness only a young band could. A male and female vocal trade-off topped atypical grooves spiked with psychedelia and the result was sufficiently hypnotizing, building a measured, spacey atmosphere. The haunting hymnal that was their last song teased some truly poignant moments to come in this band's career.



I couldn't have asked for a better 26th band than Sikamor Rooney. As I crossed the finish line, they whizzed by me, seemingly unaware the race was over. Their rapid-fire country punk sneered and spat with disregard like an unchained beast with rock star swagger. Scathing and snotty like the Black Lips with some of the retro sass of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the trio barn-burned through grimy numbers like the Iggy Pop-ish "Dirty Dog" noticeably drunk even though it was only 5:30. Their final song couldn't have been a better finale with a more perfect title, wrapping up my marathon with three fateful, self-explanatory letters that sum it all up: "N. Y. C."

Later that night, for shits and giggles and to flaunt my stamina, I headed to the Music Hall of Williamsburg for final bow, a curtain call. DIY hipster lovebirds Matt & Kim are sweeter than chocolate covered cotton candy and though I came out of there with three cavities, not once did I stop smiling. Seriously, though, my cheeks were sore. Kim punishes the skins at a mile a minute while Matt pounds on screaming synth keys, taking breaks only to tell us in the crowd how "fucking awesome" we all were and to read passages from his favorite book, Letters to E.T. Best stage banter? Without a doubt. Happiest crowd surfers? Mmhmm. A storybook ending to my CMJ epic? I think Matt & Kim and everyone else in the Music Hall said it best: YEA YEAH YEA YEAH YEA YEAH YEA YEAH YEA YEAH YEA YEAH YEA YEAH. - Joe Coscarelli


via The Deli Magazine which has collected my entire 5 day journey HERE

mp3 Matt & Kim Yea Yeah

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