NEW YORK — Day Two of CMJ was a stellar one for music, one that will set a high bar for the rest of the week. With so many conflicting shows, we weren’t able to see everything we wanted to (My Jerusalem and Wild Nothing were among the acts that fell by the wayside), but the gigs we got to were more than satisfying.
Fences: With several performances scheduled for the week, Seattle’s Fences is one of the hot tickets this year. Blast was lucky enough to catch an early performance yesterday afternoon at the tiny Rockwood Music Hall, whose coffee shop atmosphere and excellent acoustics lent themselves to the band’s moody, intricate aesthetic. Fences, whose self-titled debut album was released at the end of September, is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Chris Mansfield. On stage, Mansfield gives off a slight Michael Stipe vibe — or at least, something akin to Stipe’s heavily tattooed, rebellious younger brother. His confessional lyrics are Elliott Smith-like in their sensitivity, but the guitar and piano-driven sound overall evokes the darker sensibility of bands like The National or The Middle East. Move this act high on your list for what to see for the remainder of the week.
Parallels: When we caught Parallels at Backstage Bar a little after 10 p.m., singer Holly Dodson described the show as merely a “soundcheck rehearsal” for a later show that night in Brooklyn. But you’d never know it. The Toronto duo, consisting of Dodson on keyboards and former Crystal Castles drummer Cameron Findlay, plowed through a polished set of danceable dark wave. The group stands out for Findlay’s use of a live drumkit rather than an electronic one or pre-programmed beats. The cherubic Dodson is an unassuming stage presence, but her high-pitched voice is the perfect fit for Parallels’ shimmery synth-pop sound Think New Order fronted by Cyndi Lauper.
Empires: Rounding out the evening was the Gig Maven showcase at National Underground. We caught the tail end of Empires’ set, which hearkened back to the grunge boom of the 1990s. Singer Sean Van Vleet’s gravelly snarl bears more than a passing resemblance to Eddie Vedder. It’s refreshing to see a modern rock band that doesn’t rely on a shtick to enhance their music — and Empires doesn’t need to. Their straightforward rock was more than enough to entertain the crowd.
Photos by Sarah Be for Blast Magazine.