CMJ 2014: BrooklynVegan Present The Jazz June, Beach Slang, Pity Sex, Cayetana and Sport at Baby's All Right
Beach Slang at CMJ 2014; All photos by Laura Baker-Finch
Brooklyn, New York -- It was the last day of CMJ, and it was hard to tell the difference between end of festival exhaustion and anticipation of post-festival depression. BrooklynVegan and Baby's All Right had each hosted their share of showcases during the week, but the finale (at least, one of many) was imminent: The Jazz June headlined a showcase with openers Sport, Cayetana, Beach Slang, and Pity Sex. The emo-tinged bill was supplemented by a guest DJ, Tom Mullen of Washed Up Emo, to make sure everyone was really feeling some feels about the last night of the festival.
Hailing from Lyon, France is what set the first act of the night, Sport, apart from their up-and-coming pop-punk/emo/indie contemporaries like Dads or You Blew It. Their shouty, masculine vocals were complemented by indie-heavy breakdowns and tempered with twinkly guitar parts. One guitarist had hurt his arm, so he only joined the remaining three for vocals on a few songs. If the presence of the two or three fanboys screaming along in the front row are any indication, Sport have the potential to become one of those successful mid-level bands with a devoted following.
Cayetana / Laura Baker-Finch
Next were Cayetana, who appeal to fans of punk rock à la The Menzingers and catchy, bouncy rock played by three girls in band tees (at this show their sartorial choices were Against Me!, The Muffs, and Smashing Pumpkins). Their music is solid on its own, but Cayetana are a band whose live act breathes extra vitality into their music, making a show even more enjoyable than listening at home.
Beach Slang also made more sense live than recorded, even if the outfit of the lead singer - a blazer and tie paired with a trucker hat - did not. But that dichotomy somehow paralleled musical ones: his voice was folk punk grit meets 80s goth, and lyrics like "it's Friday night and I'm in the basement/screaming out my lungs with my best friends" were juxtaposed against emotional croons like "this guitar wants to die.” Energetic, charismatic, and musically tight, Beach Slang were the standout set of the night.
Beach Slang / Laura Baker-Finch
A few hours before the showcase, Pity Sex played a stripped down set at the Fred Perry Surplus Shop - as acoustic as a band whose sound relies on distorted guitars can get. While the rare intimate performance, which included the first time they'd ever played "Hollow Body" live, might have been called flawless, the same could not have been said for their set at Baby's All Right. Guitarist/vocalist Brennan Greaves had a rough night, from his vocals sounding a little too clear compared to the amount of distortion applied to them on recordings, to a broken guitar string turning "Drown Me Out" into more of an instrumental jam. But props to the band, who didn't stop while Greaves figured out his guitar situation.
Despite technical issues, it was a treat to hear "Acid Reflex" and "Gigantic" (a Pixies cover) off the band's recent split with Adventures. The two songs are more upbeat than the majority of their discography, so in the context of their otherwise bummed-out shoegaze the two songs added a layer of goosebump-inducing upbeat pop.
The Jazz June / Laura Baker-Finch
When Pity Sex walked off the stage, the audience began to flip. Fans on the hunt for the next big thing were replaced by nostalgia-fueled ones eager to see The Jazz June, who reunited in 2013 after a 9-year hiatus and will put out their first full-length since 2002 next month. From the perspective of a millennial who may have heard the word "emo" in relation to Gerard Way before Mike Kinsella, getting to see The Jazz June was less of a nostalgia trip and more of a history lesson, their sound predating bands like Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is who may have used them as jumping off points. But their new songs didn't seem like rehashings of old riffs; they sounded markedly contemporary, a necessity for a reunited band, especially amongst the slew of late 90s/early 2000s emo bands making comebacks today.