The CMJ Music Marathon really does have the perfect set-up for a New York-style music festival. It’s massive and sprawling, featuring hundreds of bands from all over the world, who come to play short, manic sets in front of diverse groups of music fans. Nothing suits New York’s ADD kind of attention span better than a set-up such as this. And although festivals like CMJ have their faults (ridiculously short sound checks and very little filter as far as the quality of bands that play), it is super fun.
After doing a little homework on the bands that would be playing, I chose a handful of brand new bands that seemed promising. First up was GunFight! at Legion, a bar in Williamsburg, on Tuesday night. At the bar’s tiny venue in the back, the band played a solid set of good American rock and roll tunes. Dressed in plaid with a patriotic red, white and blue starred guitar strap, the band sounded a bit like My Morning Jacket, if MMJ wrote better songs and had more energy. The lead guitar player, Bill Dvorak, was particularly excellent, playing some really killer rock guitar licks.
Immediately after, I hopped on the L train at Graham, transferred to the F, and popped up at Mercury Lounge on the LES attempting to check out the first set Foxygen would play during the festival, but was unfortunately turned away since the venue was already at-capacity. So, with no other plan in mind, I decided to check out who was playing at Arlene’s Grocery a few blocks over.
The Revivalists, a band from Louisiana, absolutely tore the place up. I haven’t seen an audience so into a band in quite a while. And although their performance may have come across as a little calculated and choreographed, they were incredibly entertaining. Lead singer Dave Shaw, a wired, string bean of a guy, sounded and had the stage presence of Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Additionally, the band featured pedal steel by Ed Williams. He played like Jerry Lee Lewis, rocking the whole thing back and forth, even climbing on it and banging around. Clearly a fun time was had by all.