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Across The Pond - New York's CMJ Festival: Part 3

  It's the third night of Alexander Keblish's musical endurance test.  Can he survive another evening of discovering new bands and enjoying the party atmosphere in the city that never sleeps?  As a native New Yorker you'd think he'd be used to this by now!  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

For Thursday night, I decided to stick to one venue instead of traversing from borough to borough.  I headed to the Communion CMJ show at Glasslands Gallery, an intimate 250 or so capacity bar-arts space that had just announced it would close by the end of December of this year to supposedly make way for office space for Vice Magazine.

There were two artists I wanted to see there – the Australian singer-songwriter, Gossling and the garage rock band out of Chicago, Twin Peaks – but I was bummed to learn that instead of Gossling going on at 9 PM, she wasn’t going on until 11 PM and Twin Peaks, who were supposed to go on at 11 PM, weren’t slated to go on until 1 AM (!!!).  Endure I would…

When I arrived around 8:45, I caught the last three songs of Brooklyn based Lia Ices, a Cat Power-esque vocalist with earthy vocals.  Her last song had an Indian vibe that George Harrison likely would have approved.

Odessa, another vocalist with a dreamy voice and lush vocals, with a mellow Country-western vibe at times, went on at 9:15 PM.  I thought she was a bit too mellow for the crowd at Glasslands, but I did dig her song “I Will Be There”.

Colony House, a young band out of Nashville, Tennessee (a previous Subba-Cultcha NAOTD), followed Odessa to make their Brooklyn debut and brought some more energy to the night.  They reminded me of Kings of Leon and I had actually heard their bright, poppy “Silhouettes”.

11:01 PM – Australian singer-songwriter Gossling finally took the stage with her two band mates.  Her very unique, delicate voice reminded me of Feist mixed with a warbly Billie Holiday and she and her backing band produced bouncy ethereal pop music that the crowd seemed to enjoy.  Unfortunately the sound quality of her set left much to be desired, but I was happy to catch one of her only two sets at CMJ this year.

When I first saw Gossling listed in the 2014 CMJ line-up, I initially thought that the name was ironically related to the actor Ryan Gosling in some capacity (see other indie rock names associated with CMJ, such as Com Truise, Gringo Star, etc.).  However, when I realized that the two were spelled differently and the songstress didn’t have an affinity for the brooding former Mousketeer, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Ryan Gosling taking the time to schlep out to Brooklyn to check out Gossling, and imagine the inevitable encounter between the two:  “Hey girl… I dug your smooth vocals and mellow sounds and don’t mind if people mistake your name as an appropriation of my own… keep on doing your thing, honey…”

My Key Tracks:  “Wild Love”, “A Lovers’ Spat”, “Heart Killer”

At 12:18 AM, the British band Bear’s Den came on, fresh off the release of their new album, “Islands".  They had a folk rock feel, a la Mumford and Sons, and were stateside for a five-week tour of the U.S.  I’m not a big fan of that folk rock sound that’s popular these days, but they were the penultimate band before Twin Peaks.

Finally, at 1:16 AM, Twin Peaks began their set.  The four members looked straight out of high school, but as soon as they took the stage, despite the late set time, despite it being the third set of the day for them, they rocked the hell out of Glasslands and simply owned the place, proving that despite their youth they could pla.  Twin Peaks had been one of the more hyped bands that were playing CMJ this year and I’m happy to report that they unequivocally lived up to it.

Prior to the set starting guitarist Clay Frankel reached up to gently graze one of the low-hanging cardboard tubes which were attached to the light fixtures above the stage, situated in such a way to offer decoration for the light as well as to focus it.  He then brought his finger back to taste it, as though he had dipped his finger into honey… it was a spontaneous and perhaps unintentionally hilarious move, one which may have been lost on much of the audience who failed to notice.

As I noted above, Glasslands has a capacity of about 250 and by that point there were maybe a bit more than 100 folks on hand.  As Twin Peaks plowed into their set of garage style rock, which reminded me a bit of the Strokes first album but also has echoes of the Rolling Stones and other ‘60’s era bands, it became evident that I would probably never have the pleasure of seeing them in such a small venue again.

THIS is what CMJ is all about.  It’s moments like this where you capture a band’s essence when they’re on the rise, when they know that they’re onto something and they’re making such connections with the audience…

A re-energized crowd, despite its smaller number, responded to the music accordingly and a mosh pit ensued with gleeful bodies bouncing off one another.  Balding Brooklyn hipsters proceeded to stage-dive and crowd-surf.  Bassist Jack Dolan joined in the fun, diving off the stage to a receptive throng who helped bring him back to the stage to continue the set.

Part of me wondered if I was actually seeing this unfold in front of me or if I was delirious from my third late night in a row.  No, it was definitely happening and I was glad I sucked it up to see this excellent set.

Yes, Twin Peaks delivered, but they played like they could care less.  Even though they’ve received critical accolades, they could have been playing a garage somewhere in Chicago and would have likely played with the same fervent intensity and passion.

My Key Tracks: “I Found a New Way,” “Telephone,” “Irene”

To read part 2 click here. To read the final installment click here.

Words & pictures by Alexander Keblish