CMJ seems to have been a success this year — or at least, that’s what a handful of Brooklyn club owners said when we spoke to them earlier this week. Peter Shapiro said Steven Spielberg dropped into Brooklyn Bowl, Jake Rosenthal said Glasslands was sold out every night, and Todd P seems to have come around to the fest.
“I used to say that CMJ lowered all boats in the sense that there were more parties going on but not enough people to sustain them,” he said. “I think that may have changed. It seems like suddenly it’s actually bringing in people now.” And they’re bouncing all over the place: “It’s ironic because people used to say Brooklyn was going to kill the whole party-hopping vibe of Manhattan,” said Todd P, “and now it seems like Brookyln is facilitating it.”
This writer certainly did a lot of zig-zagging between Williamsburg, Bushwick, and the Lower East Side, and caught some awesome Brooklyn bands in the process.
At Cameo Gallery on Tuesday night, the week still shone with fresh, glossy potential, and alt-noise quartet Hunters were the first to make good on that promise. Led by the duo of Isabel Almeida and Derek Watson, Hunters took the stage in honor of Oh My Rockness, who managed to curate quite the line-up for their ninth birthday (bands like Greys, Ovlov, and Pup also joined the celebration). With her floppy mop of cotton candy hair, Almeida delivered her vocals in true sweet-and-sour style, bouncing, snarling, and cutting her way through Watson’s harmonic guitar grime.
Wednesday night’s Old Flame Records showcase hosted Shark?, the Brooklyn garage rock mainstays that have treaded local waters for quite some time now. As usual, the dudes had everyone at Pianos instantly riled up, as they screeched and crunched their way through yet another thoroughly satisfying set. However, the night’s highlight didn’t arrive until Shark?’s stirring conclusion, in which bassist Andy Kinsey climbed an amp, then proceeded to fall unceremoniously onto the band’s drum kit.
Though clearly accidental, this display of sheer rock ‘n’ roll fury was great preparation for Thursday, when Big Ups — and their confrontational, anxiety-driven brand of hardcore — hijacked 285 Kent. Singer Joe Galarraga is a captivating frontman; he twists and bends his way through the crowd, hides between amps, and wraps the cord from his mic around his body, like a dark, gloomy, on-stage mummification ritual. Still, there’s humor to be found, even within the band’s most maddening moments: “This song is called ‘Rash.’ It’s about having rashes. I often have full-body rashes due to allergies, bad lifestyle choices… too much coffee, I guess,” Galarraga griped between songs.
On Friday, we skipped that other up-and-coming band, the Reflektors (maybe you’ve heard of them?) in favor of the one-two punch of Heliotropes and Ava Luna, both of whom played the Goodnight Records showcase at The Gutter. At first glance, Heliotropes frontwoman Jessica Numsuwankijkul looks like someone you’d want to host a tea party with — until she and her band begin to shred your face off, that is. Their short yet memorable set bridged pleasant pop melody with sludgy, metal-flavored ferocity, an appealing hybrid sound that’s become the band’s signature.
Ava Luna, on the other hand, were all about slick retro grooves, shrieking vocals, and sharp, angled guitars. Sweet, soulful, and delightfully noisy, their diverse range of influences can make other acts appear like a herd of one-trick ponies.
Finally, we crossed the CMJ finish line alongside Porches. and Exploding In Sound Records. On Saturday, the extra-sweaty Silent Barn was positively brimming with incredible acts (among them Speedy Ortiz, Pile, and Roomrunner), but Porches. were perhaps the most lively. Fans of the band danced, twirled, and sang right beside Aaron Maine and friends, all of whom helped represent Brooklyn to the fullest during CMJ’s epic finale.