Club nights, one of the reasons I love life
O CMJ Festival 2006, I am a study in conflict and indifference. On the one hand, I'd love to give you specifics about what I saw, on the other hand I felt resolutely dissatisfied so I wouldn't be doing anyone any favors if I start pointing fingers and naming names. SO I'll protect everyone and let them start from zero. And if you're the kind of person who must know everything, you insert the identities.
I saw several good bands with shitty sound. Band A, for example, which released an EP I adore, had a muted, unkind sound mix at their show. I don't know if the sound guy fell asleep at the wheel or generally, their work was so unlike what he's used to that he figured he'd turn up the guitar real loud and hoped that did the trick. Band B had a lengthy set-up and some sort of issue with the house about the drumkit. There was much whispering and furtive, pained looks at one another as they loaded. When they finally got the ball rolling, the band's leader gave frantic hand gestures to the drummer, as if to say 'We need to keep this going or else they'll cut us off.' Cue unrelenting faulty amp buzz and faces of discontented musos. Which is a shame, because I know that this act prides itself on their meticulous aural presentation so I felt their frustration at not being able to do a more representative performance.
Band C, internationally known, I'm not sure about rockin' the microphone, had their instruments tuned by roadies, libations and towels at the ready and still made their audience wait 56 minutes for them to take the stage. Which meant that if you'd wanted to check out another band at 9, you missed it for naught OR if you were planning to rush off to see an act at 11, you would lose the second half of their laser light lit set. I won't lie, this band probably could've done nothing to please me after that ridiculous wait. Still, I wonder if the experience made me realize something that I've chosen to ignore all this time. Namely, that their songs go NOWHERE, just run on endlessly in layers and layers of wash and that their current offerings are minimalism rock at its worst. Their drummer, a hulking Frankenstein of man in a tiny blazer, is a beast on the kit. Powerful and relentless and clearly wrapped up in the flow of things. Still, when your drummer is the most charismatic man onstage that doesn't bode well for the others. And as I stared at the leader of this outfit, painstakingly playing out each note in his carefully constructed epics, I felt an amazing lack of joy. Just a dry, workman-like satisfaction. This is a shame. Because while I did not care for this band's new album (I found it tedious with precious few moments of real ingenuity or passion) I still think that they wrote one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in the past few years. A song that doesn't sound dissimilar to the others in their ouevre. Still endless, still layered but it. Goes. Somewhere. That track is so beautifully intimate that it seems to take on human form and lie down next to you. It tells you secrets, secrets you've guessed but you're so glad to have confirmation of. Where did that sound go? Regain it! Go remember what life was like before certain tastemaking rockstars were your friend. That sound I can wait for not this tired nonsense. Of course, I realize that this anonymous bitchery is useless, BUT if you're in a successful group and you've got a vague notion that you've turned into a pretentious twaddler with nothing to say, heed my advice.
An hour later somewhere around oh, the fifth song, I turned to The Monkey* and said it's time to go. My feet were tired.
Band D is from across the pond. It might've been their first US appearance. The place was packed. I mean to the back wall, nowhere to run, PACKED. I'd heard the frontwoman's voice and was intrigued by her PJ Harvey gone pop vocal stylings. I was hoping it would be blow me away. Eh...not so much. The lead singer had golden pipes all right but something about her freeze dried performance tics repulsed me and made me not want to watch her perform. There was a lot of mugging, throwing her head back, hitting one chord on her guitar and then randomly lifting her skirt, and it looked and sounded like an 8th grade diarist doing Cabaret. I'm tortured! And pretty! But so tortured! Look at my doll face! I'm TORTURED! (soprano melisma turns into a calculated and trained grunge scream) Yeah, I quit the front, made my way to the back and sat next to my snoozing consort. Afterwards, I almost bought a cd, thinking if I didn't have to look at them it might work, but then thought better of it.
I wish there had been things to see on Sunday. Just so I could've had the chance of possibly, maybe seeing something amazing to close out the celebration. I also wish that when I bumped into clearly crazy but talented musician E, wearing a red velvet cape with a bejeweled collar, I would've grabbed him by his ermine corners and said, "What the hell are you singing about half the time? TELL ME!" I wish my boy didn't have an aversion to hip hop so I could've seen that baby-faced rap duo that went on at 1AM somewhere. I wish that I hadn't been ill during the week so I could've caught some bands whose names attracted me rather than their buzz. I wish that I didn't have to work a job where I just sit there and dream of better things. I wish, I wish, I wish. Until next year...
* The Monkey loves this band and thought this was their best show yet.