Denver is a long way from New York — 1,779 miles to be exact — but that doesn’t mean it has to be the relative we never visit. All this week we’ll have news and updates from the annual CMJ Music Marathon in the Big Apple, where a few of our local friends are playing/partying/eating real deli sandwiches as we speak.
With four days of partying and top-notch performances from over 1,200 of the hottest (and not so hot) up-and-comers from around the globe, it figures that it would only be a matter of time before it got bloody at CMJ.
The garage-psych outfit from San Francisco took the stage to a packed house on Saturday, largely comprised of flannel-clad grunge enthusiasts, shoe-gaze/noise types and the obligatory sprinkling of traditional Brooklyn hipsters. The group, fronted by guitarist and lead vocalist Ty Segall, showed the ill-effects of the aforementioned partying and performance binge. On four separate occasions, Segall asked if anyone was interested in singing in his place, and on three separate occasions handed his guitar off to audience members, including once without the intent of return.
Despite the obvious physical maladies, Ty Segall had the crowd going full speed from start to finish. The eclectic mix of fans managed to unite mid-set, jumping in eerie unison and even throwing in a little light moshing for good measure. But on Segall’s penultimate song, things got a bit sloppy in the crowd.
After his guitar took a turn for the worse following its second trip into audience, the front man decided to leave the busted ax with a lucky member of the audience as a souvenir. As could be predicted, civility did not ensue. An all-out wrestling match resulted between a half-dozen fans battling for the prized guitar, ultimately ending with at least three grown men rolling on the grimy floor, using blown-out thumb-wrestling tactics to score the prize.
In the end, the show was thoroughly engaging and energizing, as crowd participation like that is hard to ignore; though maybe a bit more discretion from the stage would have been appreciated. We get that you are tired, but don’t try to cut the set short when you break your guitar after passing through the audience and guilt trip the crowd by putting on the “I’m losing my voice” bit.
Earlier in the day, and on the complete opposite end of the audio spectrum, Holy Spirits, a super low-key group from Brooklyn played the Mast Brothers Chocolate Shop in Williamsburg, a hipster’s Willy Wonka-with-a-beard chocolate paradise.
The performance was very well suited for the space. The complex harmonies and subtle instrumentation of Holy Spirits seemed to blend with the old wood furniture and the burlap sacks of cocoa beans spread throughout the shop, creating a very homey feel catering to all of the senses.
The Holy Spirits, who play with anywhere from three to nine performers, sported a 4-piece on Saturday, consisting of one classical guitarist, a violinist, a minimalist drum kit and an auxiliary vocalist to support the group’s front man Aaron Hodges. The performance was surely a brief departure from the typical CMJ night filled with rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, but provided a unique treat for the senses of sight, hearing and smell.