Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CMJ the real easy way: Violens + not much else

For the first time in about 20 years, there's gloriously little reason for me to engage CMJ week in my usual aggressive three-shows-per-night way. So last night found our gang lazily trawling the dregs of the Lower East Side club scene—which is essentially every place outside of Cake Shop. The Delancey is a sorry dungeon of a club (live music in the basement, indolent text-twizzlers and DJ on the ground floor, young urban narcissists on the roof), which hosted the annual New Zealand party. We're all NZ partisans, though the pickins were rather slim this year: Openers the Naked and Famous were neither but managed to add a spark to au courant indie sounds, which is more than can be said for the rest of the bands, who did little more than ape the done-to-death UK/Amerindie style of 2005–present. ["Angular" guitars, anyone? Twelve angular guitars, just ten cents, whatta bargain…] Sub Pop signees the Ruby Suns showed flashes of charm (and no angular guitars), but whenever the duo brought a potentially good idea into a song it was abandoned just as quickly, an audio version of MTV-style jump-cut editing. Rhys "Murray Hewitt" Darby MC'ed and, unsurprisingly, stole the show without trying. On ya.

Violens, the Annex, 10/21/08 (PHOTOGRAPH: Tim Soter)

An easy walk from there to a moderately less odious orifice, the Annex, for a band we knew we like, Violens, who are already good and only going to get better. The perpetual (for now) obstacle for this NYC-via-Miami quartet is that its pristine pop songs can't possibly sound as good onstage—at least not if you're relegated to pull-the-plug rooms like the Annex (though Friday at Bowery Ballroom should be the thing/place/ticket). Sure enough, while not a disaster it was difficult sifting the brilliance of "Violent Sensation Descends" out of the indifferent mix, though I've heard this band mixed less competently, and the epic scale of new song "Until It's Unlit" came through. Bonus points for the way they launched into their set—seemingly distracted line-check becomes gathering storm reveals song.

Tonight's non-dilemma: Game 1 of the World Series or the unsurpassed guitarist Chris Brokaw, whose solo gigs are about as common as October baseball for the Phils.… The answer, of course, is both. Especially since it looks like I'll be at games 3, 4 and 5 in Philadelphia.