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CMJ Night One: Jens and His Technicolor Top Half

As learned by last night, the key to CMJ is to commit to one venue for the evening. I trekked to the Music Hall of Williamsburg, an amazing 3-floor venue for the Brooklyn Vegan showcase. Somehow, I stood throughout 5 acts, albeit my legs were shaking, my feet were aching, and I was totally dehydrated.

The Sammies were unfortunately an unpleasant start to the night. The dorky four piece from Charlotte were the typical pop-punk outfit with lead, rhythm, bass, and drums. Charming as they were, the music was utterly forgettable--predictable and repetitive--but well-rehearsed. Their best songs were near the end with some obvious southern rock 'n roll influence, but overall, I liked the karaoke band at Arlene's better (see: Jeff's blog).

Shearwater was a super awesome, older fivesome playing dreamy, somber, country-inspired rock. The highlight was Thor, their drummer/clarinet player who had a sleeveless blouse, bangs, and one pigtail braid. On stage sat two keyboards, a tambourine, banjo, trumpet, three bass guitars (two electric, one standup [with and without the bow]), acoustic and electric guitar, and the aforementioned clarinet and drums. They were a pleasant surprise.

Ponytail totally took me back to L.A. 'cos they remind me of so many Smell bands. Four kids playing the funnest noise pop/tropical-y punk is fronted by this little androgenous yelling kid who had some sort of ADD. The energy on stage just permeated through the crowd, and the night really began to take off. I loved seeing two Telecasters battling. Ponytail plays well-coordinated, well-practiced pop.

Restless for Jens Lekman, I thought I would not survive Passion Pit, but I actually was pretty absorbed in their set. Five of the cutest boys from Cambridge, MA played (suprisingly not annoying) keyboard/synth dominated electronic pop. The lead singer looked like a skinnier, hip Booger from Revenge of the Nerds and had a voice like a (less annoying) version of the Mars Volta dude. Three keyboards alternating with bass and guitar made for dreamy but energetic, fun dance music.

I have to admit, when the moment finally came, and Jens Lekman appeared like a god descending from the sky, in a pink parrot sweater, I was disappointed. I suppose I expected more singing from the "singing DJ" gig, but the set was still tons of fun. The people around me had been standing up for more than four hours at this point, but managed to dance their feet until they were numbed.

Jens was set-up on the far back corner of the stage. His pale complexion was reflecting 100% of the spotlights, so that he glowed orange, pink, and green while mouthing Mariah Carey's Fantasy and doing his characteristic old man clapping. The point was hammered home that Jens likes American female pop... a lot.

All in all, Brooklyn Vegan put on an excellent showcase and I may go to their other events this week. Tonight, I must choose between Tobacco and Fujiya and Miyagi at the Mercury Lounge, or the Carpark/Paw Tracks showcase (Beach House, Tickley Feather) at Le Poisson Rouge. I will blog again tomorrow, probably from this $2/20 minutes computer. Missin' you, L.A.