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LIVE: 2008 CMJ Showdown Lowdown

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Late of the pier1.jpg

It’s the Wednesday after CMJ has ended, and if the lack of emails in my inbox is any indication, all the music industry folk have still not recovered from those five crazy days. This year I ended up going to a show every night and boy was it tiring.

(left: Late Of The Pier performed on Friday night. Sarah was feelin’ them, Rachel, not so much.)

Here’s the lowdown:

Tuesday, October 21
We (my sister Sarah and I) headed over to The Delancey to catch Magnum PR’s showcase. My friend informed me that The Delancey never runs on time–she wasn’t kidding! They were about two hours behind, and since the first band didn’t go on until 10:45PM, I knew we were in for a long night.


First up were The Ettes. They’re a female-fronted group with a garage-y, lo-fi sound. They’re the kind of band high school kids could fall in love with (I mean this in the best way possible).

(right: The kids went nuts for The Ettes.)

The second (and last) band we saw was Gringo Star. They’ve got a killer name and killer tunes. I’d never even heard of them until a few weeks ago, but I’m so glad I’ve discovered them! To me, they’re a mix of Vampire Weekend and Black Lips. They’ve got upbeat, bouncy songs but their sound also showcases their Atlanta, GA roots with a southern twang occasionally infused with some psychedelia, reminding me slightly of The Coral. I think they are definitely a band on the rise. On a side note, I really wish they’d tour with Ringo Deathstarr.

I really wanted to stay for the next two bands, but when Gringo Star left the stage it was already 1:15 AM and we had a long trek back to Brooklyn. Unfortunately, we had to miss The High Wire, who I love and highly recommend. They make gorgeous, warm shoegaze music–when I think of them, I just picture the sun shining on me. They’re opening for Coldplay on their December UK tour, so they’ll probably be huge by the time they come back to the States.

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Wednesday, October 22
The last band on the night before was my new favorite band, Radio Luxembourg. I think they probably went on at 3 am, and that was just too late for me. So instead of sticking around for that, I saw them the next day at a more human time of 9 PM at The Annex. Simply put, they’re a Welsh band that makes the best pop music this side of Super Furry Animals. They were so fun and endearing live, I really wish the set had never ended.

(above: Why stay up late to watch Radio Luxembourg, when you can just see them at an earlier time the day after?)

Thursday, October 23
We headed over to my favorite venue, Bowery Ballroom. The first band I saw was England’s Scouting For Girls. They write saccharine-sweet love songs about girls. (Their name isn’t Scouting For Girls for no reason.) Some people might think they’re too cool to enjoy them, but if they just let loose they would see how fun this band is!
Scouting For Girls.jpg

(right: Scouting For Girls, not just a clever band name.)

The last band of the night was Delays. My friends and I (and the rest of the audience) waited four years for them to return to the States. It had been a “Long Time Coming” (that’s the name of one of their songs, so, pun intended) but the wait was worth it. They sounded amazing–strong, powerful, and energetic. They played a bunch of new songs from their third album and they were pretty dance-tastic, which was a welcomed surprise. Maybe they only like returning to the States during the year of the Summer Olympics, but let’s just hope they come back again before 2012.

Friday, October 24
We headed over to Irving Plaza for a night of dancing. The first band on was The Whip. I don’t know what to say other than that every time I see them there’s a dance par-tay. Although it seems that whenever I see them in the States they have a terrible time slot and therefore don’t get to play to the most receptive crowd, they always bring the same high level of enthusiasm that gets the crowd dancing. Plus, they’re all really nice and I’m in love with the ginger bassist. What more could I ask for in a band?


(left: The Whip: Bands that take press photos with disco balls can usually bring the par-tay!)

Like most nights at CMJ, this one went on way too long for me, so I left before I could catch Soulwax, but I did get to see Late of the Pier, the latest big-hype band from England. I don’t really get what all the fuss is about, but my sister and friend really liked them, so maybe I’m missing something? To me, they’re more of a head-banging band than a dance band, but the audience as a whole was really digging it, so maybe I need to expand my horizons.

Saturday, October 25
Finally, the show I was most excited for arrived. We headed over to Fat Baby to see Fanfarlo, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a packed room waiting for them to come on. I go through phases where I only listen to one band for months at a time, and for the past seven months, it’s been Fanfarlo. I even listened to them while I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed, but that’s a story for another time.


(right: Fanfarlo’s fans go home happy!)

I love this band and have been waiting to see them live since I discovered them in March at SXSW, and they did not disappoint. They manage to translate the warmth and fullness of their recorded music into the live setting, and the addition of instruments like the xylophone, clarinet, trumpet, mandolin, violin, and tambourine add to the richness of their music. It was a great show and the perfect end to CMJ 2008.

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