Dispatches from CMJ, Day One: Emmy the Great, the Sammies, Shearwater, Ponytail, Passion Pit, Gang Gang Dance

Written by Concert Reviews, Music

PonytailThe first day of CMJ (or the College Music Journal’s Music Marathon, should you prefer to be proper) this year was all about blog showcases, with New York City’s music and pop culture scribes scurrying off to give press to their own, most popularly The Music Slut, Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, Brooklyn Vegan and Stereogum.

Brooklyn Vegan’s showcase opened late but strong with Emmy the Great, who also got stage time at the Music Slut’s showcase. The UK songstress was the kind of sweet you want to eat up with a spoon, a big dish of love songs with a sauce of wit and a warble cherry on top. There’s a reason she can get away with adding “the Great” to the end of her name.

Emmy the Great, “Short Country Song (Demo)” (download)

There was a second band, the Sammies. There were also $3 drink specials. This was a good time to get them.

The “Surprise Guest” was Shearwater, and not much of a surprise, as people were already spoiling it while waiting outside to get in – not to mention that the Music Hall of Williamsburg had posters advertising them everywhere. Did they know it was a surprise? (Not that it really mattered.) Shearwater are bigger and brassier live, but still just not my thing.

Ponytail were surely the most talked about band of the evening. Hailing from the known by now for being a little ridiculous Baltimore scene, they can easily be described as a less annoying Deerhoof (yeah, I said it), and also, sure, any of those other avant-pop-jam bands that are slightly more on the accessible side, like Battles. Frontwoman/singer Molly Siegel stood, knees bent, arms out, palms up, mouth open and grinning wide as though she were making an offering to the gods or having the most orgasmic experience of her life – perhaps both. She also sang mostly in gibberish, or perhaps in the case of worship, her own form of tongues. Whatever the case, her delight was contagious, and I was far from the only one to think so.

Ponytail, “Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came From an Angel)” (download)

I said it awhile ago, and I’ll say it again, Passion Pit are this year’s Black Kids – i.e. a band getting a ton of press off of one tiny release that’s fun for what it is, but ultimately not the next big thing in music or even indie-electro-pop, just the kind of thing that’s easy to like because it makes people feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. Just you watch their tons of CMJ shows turn into overexposure backlash. Seriously. It’s coming. Oh, their set? It was okay. It was also a good time to leave for the Stereogum party.

Gang Gang Dance have played CMJ every year for the past couple years, it seems, and by now most people are well acquainted, though their curation of this year’s 88BOADRUM surely drew new followers, as did the Stereogum name, as did the peak at Webster Hall’s new “Studio” space, which was, realistically, probably a little too small. By this point Gang Gang Dance’s rapid-fire beats and chat-singing were probably a little much for a group of people who spent all day hopped up on caffeine and seeing a ton of bands. They did their best, but seriously, if you’re not used to getting just three hours of sleep a night, it was late – and early on in CMJ.

See more pictures from CMJ here.