by Laura Wasson
Lawrence Arabia at (Le) Poisson Rouge (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)
Tuesday marked the official start of CMJ (there was plenty of unofficial fun on Monday), and to celebrate my newly minted status as a badge-carrying music journalist, I headed to (Le) Poisson Rouge to catch the New Zealand @ CMJ Showcase. The name couldn’t have been more appropriate; it seemed like the entire nation was there to cheer on their homegrown musical talent.
As a fan of Aussie and quasi-Aussie bands such as Tame Imapala and the woefully under-appreciated Maniac, I was interested to see what their island neighbors had to offer, especially with the much-buzzed about post-punk ragers Die! Die! Die! on the bill.
Tom Lark and Lawrence Arabia opened the evening with sun-drenched sets of sweet '50s and '60s rock melodies complemented by twenty-first-century harmonies. Lark's instantly memorable pure pop channeled an angsty high school version of The Beatles, while Lawrence Arabia (the stage name of James Milne) reminded me of a young All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison. From his poetic and thoughtful lyrics to the exceptional musicality of his backing band, Milne's take on folk rock is nothing if not sophisticated, particularly in the wonderful “Traveling Shoes.”
Die! Die! Die! at (Le) Poisson Rouge (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)
When Die! Die! Die! took the stage, the energy in the room completely changed as a crop of ravenous photographers appeared out of thin air, eagerly capturing singer Andrew Wilson and bassist Michael Logie's every move. With thundering drums and bass lines so deep they seemed to touch the bottom of the ocean, the boys plowed through a quick set of their signature hard-hitting songs.
The music itself seemed to be a bit of an afterthought. You could hardly make out a single word with Wilson’s high, screeching yowl, but in a way I didn’t mind, and maybe that's the whole point of noise rock. These boys never missed an opportunity to jump into the audience, create a mosh pit, or pose expertly with their instruments in hand. Having seen so many good bands that are content to stand in one spot for the entirety of their set, it was refreshing to see an act that never stopped moving. It was energizing, fun to watch, and the ideal way to kick off what is certain to be a very busy week.