CMJ 2014: Twin Peaks, Happyness, and The Wytches at Rough Trade NYC
The Wytches by Jed Gerlach; All photos for CMJ
Brooklyn, New York -- With CMJ Music Marathon in full swing, Rough Trade NYC hosted a free daytime show featuring three relatively young bands - favorites from across the pond The Wytches and Happyness as well as Chicago-natives Twin Peaks.
For those unfamiliar with Rough Trade, in addition to being a well-established record label, it lends its name to one-year-old Williamsburg record store / venue and two historic stores in London - hence the British bands on the bill. Since its opening, the Brooklyn venue has made a point to host large touring acts in its intimate show-space, while also hosting free gigs and coming up with unique deals to promote and support newer artists. In some cases, buying a band's record served as payment for a ticket.
This cool venue locale and a solid lineup of up-and-comers made for a hell of a CMJ showcase. Scroll down for our favorite moments and insights.
By Thomas Boucher
At first glance, The Wytches from Brighton, England could easily get pinned down as cheap Nirvana knockoffs, with a sound somewhat anachronistic to modern punk and alternative sensibilities. However, when digging a little deeper, a far more original source of decade-spanning influences can be deduced. It's hard to imagine Cobain and Dick Dale in the same room, but this group makes it work with surf-rock tendencies blasted through heavily distorted amps and shrill, piercing screams. Even though their afternoon set was sparsely attended and experienced a few technical difficulties, the British trio pushed through adding to their eclectic sound a few Sabbath-esque breakdowns and one song that could fall into doo-wop category (though totally fuzzed out, of course). The Wytches are essentially doing whatever the fuck they want, and it's working out pretty damn well for them.
By Jed Gerlach
Another band hailing from the UK, Happyness brought a clearly British version of '90s alt-rock to Rough Trade, as much emulating Oasis as Pavement and Yo La Tengo. With catchy, sarcastic songwriting, as found on the acoustic opener (later reprised electric) "Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)," you'd get lines like, "I'm the motherfucking birthday boy, don't rain on my parade, Baby Jesus."
All in all, Happyness is a low-key band; they'll dip their toes in the occasional psychedelic pond or turn on the fuzz pedal here and there. But for the most part, their charm comes from being a few young dudes discontent with things in their surroundings but willing to poke fun at them all the same.
By Jed Gerlach
In contrast to what their name would suggest, Twin Peaks was the only band on the bill lacking influence from the '90s - or the '80s or 2000s for that matter. It almost seemed like the boys turned seventeen just after Tom Petty came out with Damn The Torpedoes, hopped in a time machine, and got out yesterday. Think radio rock of the Springsteen golden era infused with a youthful exuberance, a can't-we-make-it-louder-and-faster? mindset.
While this isn't the most unique genre concept to bring to the table in 2014, what they lacked in originality was more than redeemed in relentless rock 'n roll attitude. Each guitar solo was either accompanied with a member bouncing around the stage or headbanging with a tongue protruding, while the drummer treated his kit like it said something lewd regarding his sister. Even the biggest music snob would be hard-pressed to have a bad time at a Twin Peaks show, which is kind of what I'm getting from this group. Forget the buzz bands, forget the newest electronic drum software, forget Pitchfork altogether. These young'ns are taking us back to basics, back to rock 'n motherfucking roll.
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