CMJ 2014: Champion Presents The Kills at Bowery Ballroom

posted by Joshua Johnson on October 24, 2014

The Kills at CMJ 2014 by Courtney Schenck for CMJ

New York City -- For the most part, CMJ Music Marathon is about discovering new, up and coming bands. Though interspersed between the bands on the CMJ lineup promoting their debut EP or playing songs off their still-in-the-works LP are a handful of stone cold professionals. As cool as it is to see so many potential candidates for your new favorite band spot, it can be even cooler to see a band that comes with an already-perfected live show. Case in point: The Kills, who headlined the Champion Showcase at the Bowery Ballroom.


by Aehee Kang Asano

Slothrust sound like a rock-infused version of Katie Crutchfield's Waxahatchee (not to be confused with the punk-infused version of Waxahatchee - Alison Crutchfield's Swearin'). The Waxahatchee appears in Slothrust front woman Leah Wellbaum's confessional, I'm-reading-from-my-diary lyrical style. The rock comes from a just heavy enough rhythm section and Wellbaum's legit guitar solos.

Wellbaum's singing style isn't as earnest as that of the sisters Crutchfield - she takes a more laid back approach. Luckily, her overall slacker demeanor stayed firmly in the "charming" camp without veering into obnoxiously ironic territory.

 In the end though, it's talent that wins out, and Wellbaum has a ton of that. Her guitar playing, and the whole Slothrust experience was a joy to watch.

Moon Duo

First off, Moon Duo are not a duo. They are a trio. I know - I was shocked too. I haven't felt this tricked by a band name since I found out Band of Horses consist of exactly zero horses. The third member of Moon Duo came in the form of a live drummer, which is definitely a welcome addition. He provided a solid backbone to moon duo's psychedelic brand of garage rock.

Moon duo roared through their set on the strings of Ripely Johnson's powerful guitar riffs. Though the band encountered some early technical difficulties, Johnson's fuzzy guitar tones powered through for a heavy, druggy set.

The Kills

by Courtney Schneck

The Kills became the newest member of my personal Five Timers Club, as the Bowery Ballroom show marked the fifth time I’ve seen Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince live in action. Since I saw them for the first time in 2010, the show has stayed mostly the same, with the exception of adding a group of choreographed back-up drummers. Luckily, that show is really, really good.

Mosshart’s feral behavior on stage continues to be the focal point of The Kills’ live show, and it hasn’t at all lost its potency for the crowd. More importantly, it hasn’t lost its potency for Mosshart, either. She still snarls and growls her way through “No Wow,” “Tape Song” and “Kissy Kissy” with the same energy and sincerity that she’s always had. 

As magnetic as Mosshart is, Hince is a beast in his own right. He’s the musical backbone of the band, and he handles it so cooly. Not to mention that no one really plays guitar like he does. The Kills can count many bands as heavy influencers, but on stage, they are a wholly unique act.

Given the intimate (for them) size of the Bowery Ballroom, last night’s show definitely had a special feeling. While the small space limited them to bringing only two members of their back-up drum collective on stage, Mosshart and Hince commanded the sold-out crowd through a rip-roaring set. The interactions between the two members is always a highlight of any Kills show, and the close quarters allowed them to pursue those interactions more frequently.

Without a new album to promote, The Kills tore through a set that touched on each of their previous records. They opened with Midnight Boom’s “U.R.A Fever” and brought it all back to the beginning an hour later with closer “Monkey 23,” off their first album, Keep on Your Mean Side. Though the band brought full energy to every song, the highlight of the show was “Black Balloon.” The natural progression of that song fits so well with The Kills live style, allowing them to build up to a climax and explode with ferocious energy.

After “Monkey 23,” the band took a bow and left the stage. There would be no encore, which, while a bit disappointing, felt right. The Kills had just laid out a ten-plus year career on that stage, and they didn’t have anything more to prove - a rare feeling at CMJ.

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