Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brooklyn Vegan CMJ Day Show @Pianos, Oct. 22nd

On Thursday, I got out of work around 11am, and decided to take advantage of the new schedule by spending the rest of the sunny afternoon in the Lower East Side doing something I had never done before -- I went to a CMJ Day showcase. I opted to attend the free Brooklyn Vegan lineup at Pianos, bolstered by the promise of free beer, and who can really say no to free beer in the middle of the day. I most looked forward to seeing the headliner, Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah fame who was in town promoting his latest solo effort, but I also had been wanting to see some music in Pianos, in which, until then I had only been for a drink occasionally and had never seen any live music. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, it was also nice going by myself, rolling in whenever I wanted without coordinating with my friends. Much like checking out a museum alone, I was wholly in charge of what I wanted to see/hear and how long I lingered for one band over another. And because the day was free, I really was at liberty to do whatever the hell I wanted, even if it was just sitting at the bar and seeing how many bottles of Miller Lite would I really drink (apparently, 4).

I initially started downstairs in the more traditional stage setup, first catching the band A Classic Education, which reminded me a little of the time I saw The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but with a theremin! After a handful of songs, I then decided that what my up-since-4am body really wanted was to go upstairs and sit in the lounge for some mellower music, and Freelance Whales were precisely the remedy I needed, with their twee stripped down arrangements employing a Sufjan-esque sound built with banjo, metal water can percussion, and a thing that looked like a piece of luggage but made sounds like an accordion. Right after was a singer-songwriter named Rebecca Shiffman, to whom you had to give props for playing solo to the chatty upstairs. I headed downstairs again for the adorable Surfer Blood, who I thought sounded like Weezer meets Beach Boys with a little Fugazi thrown in. After their set, I headed back upstairs to catch the end of Peggy Sue, who turned out to be two English girls and a male drummer, none of whom I believe is named after the Buddy Holly song, but played a great cover of Missy Elliot's "All N My Grill."

I went back downstairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lovvers, but the room was majorly packed, so I ventured outside to grab a snack to counter the effect of the beer, which was just running through me. Can you believe that the only chocolate and coconut combo that Economy Candy carries is with white "chocolate" -- BLECH! Mildly placated by some Sun Chips, I headed back into Pianos and once again couldn't make any headway into the downstairs room, so I said fuggit and sat for the last song by Chris Denny and his band. His voice had a slight falsetto(?) quality that my beer-fuzzied brain couldn't quite wrap itself around, but no matter, I was seated for the rest of the afternoon.

The upstairs got really crowded for the next singer, Holly Miranda, so I moved to get a better view and ended up sitting like right under her mic. Despite more or less enjoying everything I had seen until that point, her music was perhaps the first that really stuck in my head, her beautiful soaring voice and excellent use of a looping pedal reminding me of Grizzly Bear and Magnet. Gorgeous stuff, truly.

The last band to play upstairs was Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and his band, who despite the limited space, managed to project a great energy that the packed room really enjoyed. His songs didn't stick with me so much, but his performance reminded me of bands like Dr. Dog or Marah, who always seem to have a good time playing together.

For the final act of the day, we moved back downstairs, and to my surprise, it wasn't packed. Solo Alec Ounsworth played a nice short set that consisted of songs from his new solo album, Mo Beauty, as well as a few covers. Here's his cover of Chris Knox's "A Song to Welcome the Onset of Maturity":

His set was pretty different from the manic energy of a typical CYHSY show, but I knew what to expect, having seen him play by himself opening for The National four years ago at the Mercury Lounge. It proved to be a nice way to wind down and I headed back home to Brooklyn with a satisfied grin on my face.

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