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CMJ Day 3: Lost In Williamsburg

The best CMJ shows are the unofficial ones in the daytime at tiny venues. It's actually fun finding the bathroom in the basement, the stage on the second floor, and with the ground and mezzanine it makes a total of four floors begging to be explored. The bands usually float around too for a short, friendly chat. Case in point, Brooklyn Vegan threw another show at Piano's (old legitimate Piano sign still decorates facade) and the line-up was difficult to pass up: The Muslims, Japanese Motors, Pretty and Nice, Friendly Fires, Crystal Antlers, etc.

I was able to squeeze in an interview with The Muslims, recent L.A. transplants from San Diego, who I had seen at the Echo unexpectedly in the summer. Their sound is garage rock-ish, reminiscent of several key rock acts of past decades, but refreshing and new. We tried hard to make my tiny travel recorder work among weekday street noise, and hopefully the quality is good enough for me to post when I return. The band has been super busy at CMJ, but the too-short interview is hopefully the precursor to a real, grueling, hot-seat style interview in the studio.

For playing so early in the day, Boston boy band Pretty and Nice really got me in the dancey mood. They have extraordinary energy, joking about their malfunctioning equipment, soliciting a snare drum from the crowd, and playing really edgy punky pop (not pop punk). They toed the line between rebellious and out of tune, but luckily stayed on the first side.

I had no interest in Eagle Seagull at all. Don't get me wrong, the keyboards were great and so were the violin solos, but I really saw nothing special with their music or performance. Six musicians produced a really full sound with great coordination, but somehow the creativity was lost. The band utilized repetitive hooks and relied on the talent of the vocalist, who could not produce enough variety to perpetuate interest.

In the evening, I went to Webster Hall to finally catch one of Fujiya and Miyagi's performances at CMJ. I didn't know until I saw the massive line of teenz that Crystal Castles was actually the headliner. The earlier comment about enjoying small venues is directly related to the fact that this place was pretty darn big and packed (with annoying, illicitly drunk teens).

Lymbyc System opened the night, and man, I have been so lucky catching worthwhile openers. I doubt this is P.C., but the band is two unassuming-looking guys with Jew-fros playing shoegazey, experimental electronic. They reminded me a whole lot of Tortoise, only less Jazzy. While at times they sounded like a tiny music box lullaby, L.S. definitely brought the volume and the beat in, and the show peaked in several climaxes. The scrawnier guy played keyboards, and was obviously trained on piano, while the slightly less scrawny fella played both drums and bells. They're on tour with Crystal Castles.

Whomadewho was hilarious, wacky, and totally lovable. I will scan my drawings of them later, but for now, just look at their myspace. The dude played guitar with a Heineken bottle. Need I say more?

Now, I have never seen a live video of Fujiya and Miyagi or, well, even a photo. I had no clue what to expect. The best part of the show was seeing how the sounds were made and who was making them. Surprises:

1) The guitarist is the main vocalist, but the keyboardist and bass player contribute as well. It's pretty subtle on the album, and I couldn't tell if the singer just layered his own vocals.
2) The guitarist is amazing. It's subtle on the album, but F&M really let those solos shine.
3) The album sounds so cohesive that you could believe one person was recording everything, but really it's just almost-perfect coordination.

Every day has been discovery, disappointment, and pure satisfaction. My ears are aching, even after wearing earplugs, and probably from the HUGE speakers at Webster. I left before Crystal Castles not just because I've seen them before, but because I was going to strangle the kids in the crowd. Whatever I.D. check lady gave these young babies liquor should get the boot. They yelled "Crystal Castles!!!" during Fujiya and Miyagi's set and kept talking about how much they sucked. FAIL.

(Pictures and stuff soon. Sorry I write so much. Sorry this is unedited. More tomorrow!)