This year’s CMJ was nothing short of spectacular for Cougar Microbes. Braving the cold weather and the rain, we meandered through the downtown Manhattan and East Brooklyn areas to see as many of the new up and coming artists as possible. From the coveted SoFar Sounds showcases and The Kills, to the late night dance parties with Made In Heights and Saint Pepsi, to catching the promising performances by BORNS, we covered it all. As always, we were left tired, happy, and wanting more, thanks again CMJ!
We kicked off our CMJ experience with an early 1pm visit for Piano’s Kick Off Party to see Saskwatch play what was the first of several of the band’s appearances over the week. Playing numerous tracks from their 2014 “Nose Dive” release the Australian multi-membered behemoth offered highlight after highlight with frontwoman Nkechi Anele commanding the spotlight throughout. The timely horn interjection made the performance soar in spite of the early hour.
Upon hearing about SoFar Sounds, I immediately submitted my name and crossed fingers that I would be one of the lucky few selected for their highly coveted guest list for any one of their five secret CMJ shows. When I was approved for Tuesday night’s showcase located “somewhere on the LES,” I blindly abandoned my CMJ schedule for the night, without knowing who I was seeing or where I was even seeing them. After receiving my email with the location, I arrived 20 minutes early, bounding up the stairs to the 3rd floor apartment with the excitement of a little kid getting a new puppy. I entered the vast living room on the Bowery, and found the artist list and set times hanging on the refrigerator on the kitchen. I did not care that I had never heard of any of the 4 bands performing, I was too awestruck over the enormous size of the apartment, and the one man (Moses Sumney) sound checking soulfully, playing his electric guitar, and cooing into the microphone. As if I hadn’t already known, once I plopped down on the couch right next to the “stage,” I knew this was going to be an unforgettable night.
Immediately explaining that LST stands for Light Skinned Trouble, Madison took the attention of the living room of 50 people, with his drummer playing a cajón, and an acoustic guitarist at his side. Madison started spitting clever and gripping raps about life, love, and everything in between. The highlight of his set was when SoFar veteran Kiah Victoria joined for “The World,” to lend her dulcet vocals for background fill-in, punctuating his best lines, and of course a dangerously catchy hook.
While perched on a stool behind the microphone the soft-spoken Moses Sumney lured his audience to float away with him, lured by his angelic falsetto.
Mesmerizing the tiny audience with his vocals as rich and smooth as molasses, Moses‘ sound filled the entire apartment with an incomparable magic. His quick fingers picking at the electric guitar were such a sight to see up close, and it made the whole experience that much more fascinating.
Still on the high from the SoFar Sounds set, we wandered over to the Bowery Electric just in time to catch Shirley House and see yet another truly unique performance. Lead singer Samuel Smith doesn’t only command the stage with his powerful falsetto, but he also dances with the swagger of a pop-star. It’s practically unheard of to have backup dancers at CMJ, but with their electro-pop afrocentric beats à la M.I.A. Shirley House left an impression on their entire audience, and it was more than good.
Cold War Kids
It’s amazing to think that Californian’s Cold War Kids have been around for close to a decade. Seeing them on stage they look like a band who are just starting out having the time of their lives. With a setlist that sounded more like a greatest hits set, peppered with tracks from the freshly released “Hold My Home” album. With a packed Brooklyn Bowl all screaming the lyrics to “We Used To Vacation” things could indeed be much worse,
Words by Amanda Jabes and Boaz