CMJ Music Marathon Wrap-Up, Part Two
Here are some more bands whose live shows were among the highlights of this year's CMJ Music Marathon.
The Bronx: This confusingly named L.A. band is hardly new, having played a major stage on the length of this past summer’s Warped Tour. But they continue to retain the obsessive devotion of rowdy, tattooed pit partiers. Their brand of fun-times old-school hardcore and skate punk delivers live, every time, without fail. Their show in a small Lower East Side basement venue, on the first night of CMJ, saw males outnumber females about eight to one, and still, things kept a friendly vibe. Impressive.
Crystal Antlers: Not to be confused with the uber-popular Crystal Castles, or fellow up-and-comers Crystal Stilts (“crystal:” this year’s “wolf?”), this quintet seems to scream Brooklyn. But it actually hails from Long Beach, California, where they’ve stewed up a psychedelic, arty mess of yelping vocals with keyboard stabs, garagey guitars, and two drummers (albeit playing very reduced kits). It sounds insufferably pretentious, but only is a little so, and the band’s sweat-drenched, clothes-losing stage energy makes up for that.
Jay Reatard: The onetime teenage punk rock frontman has gone solo and grown up, a bit. But he still turns out indelibly catchy, head-bopping ditties that, live, carry a distinct whiff of Screeching Weasel.
King Khan: The Indian-extracted, Montreal-based dude who goes by King Khan recently toured the country with his full band, the Shrines – Miami’s own Jacuzzi Boys were among the opening acts (and no, the tour didn’t come here). At CMJ, though, Khan played as his “King Khan and BBQ Show” outfit, which entails him on guitar, wearing a tight tunic, sparkly women’s panties, and a ratty black wig, with a turban-swaddled pal singing backup, playing guitar, and beating a miniature drum set. Costume gimmicks are usually stupid, but it’s clear that rather than just masquerading as a “quirky” act, King Khan legitimately hails from Planet of the Freaks. Which must be a cool place to visit, because it’s there that he birthed his incongruous, surprisingly big-sounding blend of southern-fried, soul-tinged vintage rock and roll.
Krallice: At a Vice magazine-sponsored late-night party, the storm this New York metal act unleashed threatened to utterly vaporize the assembled crowd, which was an amusing mix of downtown scenesters and real metal-heads, all jacked up on Sparks. With deep, technical textures set at high speed and spread with oddly musical, shrieking vocals, Krallice’s sound is both terrifying and sublime, and literally teeth-rattling in the intensity of its low end.
Monotonix: This Tel Aviv trio destroyed (sometimes literally) this year’s SXSW, and at CMJ continued to leave a trail of dropped jaws in its wake. They look and smell as though they were beamed in from an Abbie Hoffman-sponsored rally circa 1968, and haven’t gotten haircuts or showered since. They also, uh, refuse to play on an actual stage. The drum kit starts out set up on one corner of the venue floor, and will be pushed, passed, and thrown to other various corners by the show’s end, all while Haggai Fershtman continues to drum.
Meanwhile, frontman Ami Shalev climbs walls, pours audience members’ drinks down his pants, and pelts himself, bandmates, and onlookers with plastic cups and watery garbage. He hangs from balconies, or crowd-surfs from the mixing board after leading the crowd in a confusing countdown from ten to one, then back up to four. He moons the crowd and bangs himself on the head with found objects like license plates, all while singing ape-shit, acid-damaged, MC5-flavored jams with surprisingly melodic interludes. Shalev, somehow, does this all in a strangely fun way that’s more inclusive than combative, and he is now definitely my latest hero.