After a brief, pointless detour to New Jersey, I found myself back in Williamsburg on Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Vegan/Converse free day party at Public Assembly. Sadly, we were too late for the free food (see above), but we did manage to snag some kind of spiked iced tea cocktail during No Joy's forgettable set.
They were followed on the mainstage by NOLA'S always-entertaining Big Freedia, who first bowled me over during NXNE in Toronto this past June. The self-proclaimed "Queen Diva" somehow managed to be raunchy, abusive and genteel, in that uniquely Southern way. "New York is like my second home," she told us. "You people are all crazy! Now, who wants to be a volunteer?" she asked before getting a 1/2 dozen audience members to join her onstage and shake their money makers to "Azz Everywhere."
From there, we wandered down to The Woods on S. 4th Street, where FMLY and Impose Magazine hosted a showcase of tripped out, psych-rock from all over the country. We saw Emily Reo, Blissed Out and the amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman (pictured) who created tribal, trancelike vibes barefoot on a carpet in front of the stage, like a band of Qawaali singers. No relation to the Oscar-winning actor.
I managed to see Mississippi's FLIGHT twice Saturday night: first at the Capeshok showcase at Bruar Falls, then later on at sister bar Cakeshop on the LES. (They apparently played a third show later on that night back across the river at Don Pedro's.) Really fun, straight-ahead garage: evidence of indie life below the Mason Dixon line.
Also at Cake Shop were fellow Mississippians Dead Gaze, who played catchy, tunes full of distortion and electronics, with singing by Jimmy Cajolejas. (I especially liked "Stay, Don't Stay," punctuated by a hypnotic pulse on Jimmy's Kaoss Pad.) Then, just when I was about to bail on Georgia's tone deaf Barerracudas, I was saved by the arrival of free pizza. Sucker, I am.
At one point, I hopped over to Piano's to catch violist Anni Rossi, who runs her instrument through a pickup and multiple effects pedals while strumming it like a bass uke (or, if you will, Buke) creating a warm, electric vibe. No indication where she learned to play, but if she came from the classical world, it was completely impossible to tell.
Elsewhere in the vicinity were personal faves Alcoholic Faith Mission and Miracles of Modern Science, both of whom became casualties to the overrunning of the LES with the weekend Bridge and Tunnel set. After futile, ill-advised attempts to get into the Neon Indian show at Bowery and the Windish showcase at Santos, we finally piled ourselves in a cab and passed out on our way back to Brooklyn.
As with NXNE, SXSW and other indie smorgasbords, CMJ 2010 was less about the individual bands than the collective energy generated by having so much live music pouring out of so many places, from established venues to private lofts. For bands, its a chance to get noticed; for the rest of us, its a window of discovery, an opportunity to embrace our perhaps-fading independent spirit. And remember what made us fall in love with music in the first place.
See you next year.
More pics on Flickr.