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CMJ Day 4: Panache Showcase and Pitchfork Unofficial Showcase

by Laura Wasson Dent May CMJ 2012 Public Assembly

Dent May at the Panache Showcase at Public Assembly (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)

Friday, I finally found myself in Brooklyn for the CMJ Panache Showcase at Public Assembly and Pitchfork’s Unofficial Showcase at Villain. The latter was at least official enough to merit a YouTube livestream and sponsorship from Topman (complete with tote bags and baseball hats!), but that’s neither here nor there.

At Public Assembly I was treated to sets from two exceptionally talented Southern bands–something I’m always excited about since I am very much a Louisiana girl at heart. Mississippi’s  Dent May was first and handily proved to be the most interesting act of the evening. May offered a mix of pop-rock goodness that referenced everyone from New Order to The Bee GeesThe Beach Boys, and Elton John in a way that still managed to make sense. “Do Things” and “Rent Money” were two standouts, but every song felt fun and worthy of a little boogie.

Turbo Fruits CMJ 2012 at Public Assembly

Turbo Fruits at the Panache Showcase at Public Assembly (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)

Nashville’s Turbo Fruits were up next with their signature Southern rock swagger and guitar-slaying skills. The lads mostly stuck to material from their latest album, Butter, including “Where the Stars Don’t Shine” and “I Don’t Like to Fight.” While the set didn’t lack for energy, the wear of having played two shows earlier that day in addition to their ongoing cross-country tour was evident. Thankfully, the crowd of devoted fans sang along and ate up every bit of Turbo Fruit’s set.

DIIV CMJ 2012 Pitchfork Showcase at Villain

DIIV at Pitchfork's Unofficial Showcase at Villain (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)

Next, I hoped over to Villain for Death Grips. Their two a.m. closing slot allowed me to catch Brooklyn-based DIIV’s set first. Although a very buzzed-about band with a few CMJ shows this time around, these very young dudes failed to leave much of an impression. While the crowd moshed enthusiastically to the weird grunge-jam rock hybrid, I wondered what it was about these boys that the audience liked so much. All are passably good musicians, but none of their songs felt special or exciting, especially since none of the lyrics–delivered by Zachary Cole Smith (also of Beach Fossils)–were decipherable.

Death Grips CMJ 2012 Pitchfork Showcase at Villain

Death Grips at Pitchfork's Unofficial Showcase at Villain (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)

Death Grips proved very much worth the wait. I never thought I’d like a rap group, but Death Grips’ throbbing industrial beats and fierce lyrics were nothing if not refreshing and infectious. Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett combined the raw intensity of Henry Rollins with the grace of a trained dancer. Every move he made, whether convulsing his body or shoving unruly fans off the stage, was elegant and powerful. From my little perch above the crowd, I could only catch glimpses of drummer Andy Morin’s kinetic, lightning-fast work, but the turned-up-to-eleven sound system made it easy to make out his thundering beats.

Although Death Grips has been gaining momentum since last year, it hit critical mass this month when the group circumvented Epic and leaked their second album of 2012 via Twitter and various other file-sharing sites. The packed crowd wasn’t a surprise, but their enthusiasm was. While verging on annoying, their genuine willingness to mosh with abandon to both newer and older songs like “Get Got” and “Fever (Aye Aye),” was nice to see. The band is much closer to Nine Inch Nails than Lil Wayne, and a sinister-but-enthralling energy filled the set from start to finish. After a tepid call for an encore, the lights came up in the rough, DIY space and the crowd wandered homeward, sweaty and exhausted. It was almost four in the morning, after all.