CMJ 2014: Brooklyn Vegan and Iron Pier Presents Self Defense Family at The Acheron
Self Defense Family by Ryan Dalton Rodrigues
Brooklyn, New York -- "We're competing with Obits," Self Defense Family lead singer Patrick Kindlon proudly declared last night on stage at The Acheron. "You don't know them? They're ex-members of that other band I don't give a shit about."
Never afraid to talk some shit and drop some names, Kindlon's onstage rants are what audiences have come to expect from Self Defense Family’s live shows. Acutely aware of his niche (between DIY post-punk and 90s experimental rock) and the fact that their Brookyn Vegan/Iron Pier sponsored CMJ showcase was technically unofficial, Kindlon stood at the crossroads between criticizing the things other bands would deem off-limits, and defensively throwing himself under the bus before anyone else could. Unlike bands on official CMJ shows, Self Defense Family, also known as Self Defense and formerly known as End of a Year, did not come to a tiny room in Brooklyn to become the next big thing - truly, they were there for the music alone.
Waiting to get into the club before the show, Kindlon introduced himself to the doorman. “I won’t be drinking tonight, if that makes a difference,” he said. The doorman still required ID, but the singer’s stone sobriety did make a difference to his stage persona. Not indulging in drugs, either (evidenced by the End of a Year lyric: “they make you talk too loud, and that’s annoying”), each biting dig and aired grievance took on an intense lucid intentionality, coupling a piercingly focused, precise method of performance with a mystifying stream of consciousness mode of storytelling that captivated audience members as much as it alienated them.
The Family comprises a collective, with myriad members contributing to the incessant cycle of releases and ever-changing live lineup. One never knows who to expect to see on stage, nor can they predict how familiar songs will be interpreted for that specific lineup. Using a model of improvisation, even tracks like “Tithe Pig” and “Turn the Fan On” from the band’s latest full-length, Try Me, felt unfamiliar live.
Not to say they sounded worse; in fact, the contrary was true. The sheer amount of non-sung words that came out of Kindlon’s mouth revealed his desire to perfect his own art for reasons completely selfish. For someone who improvised a repetitive rhythmic mantra with a list of things he “doesn’t give a shit about,” it seemed that the only thing he did care about was growing as an artist, breathing new life into past work, and challenging himself to become a better performer.
The audience knew this because of his narration. The band performed two songs off a forthcoming full-length, but not before a preface explaining that one song had “about 45 parts” the singer worried about perfecting. Nobody else would have noticed that he missed two transitions had he not said so, which nailed down the idea that the only person he wanted to impress was himself - the crowd just happened to be there to see it all go down.
The band clearly doesn’t perform to make friends, but their commitment to their art without regard for fame was refreshing in the context of this week’s music marathon. They might fail miserably to meet any requirements of a buzz band, but Self Defense Family’s authentic DGAF sensibilities give them a visionary edge. Sure, they appeal to a specific type of conceptual punks, but next year, those same diehards will make it out to another show, and not as much can be said for every band on the CMJ lineup.
Follow @alyssa_blair on Twitter