In Which Our Reluctant Hero Attempts the 2007 CMJ Crawl (and Makes It Home Alive)

It takes an effort of Herculean proportions to lift the 20 oz. cup of 7-11 coffee to my trembling lips, awaiting the rush of caffeinated goodness to invigorate me in time for my 10:00 AM training session with the head of our illustrious Sales department. I look down at my right hand and can still plainly see the word "BAND" emblazoned in bold, black letters, despite repeated washings.

All because what started as a simple trip to see Stars playing at the Town Theater in NYC turned into my first attempt to "hang with the cool kids" for the College Music Journal 2007 Music Marathon & Music Festival, happening in various locations throughout the city over the course of this week. Indie Maven Sean was (of course) my guide through the jungles and basement bars for the evening, and he's been keeping up every day over at his blog where you can see pics and some commentary for Day 1, Day 2 and last night.

Fit the First - Stars @ Town Hall Theater

Knowing Sean's proclivity for being, shall we say, tardy, I wisely got my ticket for the Stars show a few days before the actual show. Which means that for once I get there in plenty of time to walk around Times Square (which no matter how many times I do it never seems to grow old for me). Unfortunately, Sean was under the impression that Stars wouldn't be going on until around 10 PM, despite posters and websites saying doors open promptly at 8 PM. So while he frantically jumped trains and urine splashes to make it in time, I sit down in some excellent seats to enjoy the show:

Live, Stars is almost the exact opposite of their studio persona: boisterous and jubilant. They were made to perform live. The set is decorated with old gold-framed pictures lying around and tons of flowers which were ceremoniously thrown to the crowd during the long, excellent set.

The song that accompanies each pics completely escapes me right now, but I know much of the setlist was comprised of songs from their latest album In Our Bedroom After the War.

"Hi. My name is Torquil and this is my light suit." If you've only ever heard Stars on their studio albums, the level of humor and electricity (ha!) may surprise you. His banter and stage presence moved the entire audience to stand, dance, and shout for the duration of the show.

Amy Millan rocked it pretty hard in this show. She seemed a lot more playful than the last time I saw them live, and she also brought the ROCK pretty hard with her Les Paul, as evidenced by the above shot.

End? Torquil said something along the lines of "I hope you forget that we exist and listen to our music and think that it's all about you and your crazy, pornographic, desperate and wonderful lives" before jumping off the stage and running around the theater providing hugs and general hysterical theatrics for a crowd that was entranced with an outstanding show.

Fit the Second - Pela @ Bowery Ballroom

We hoof it downtown to the Bowery Ballroom, having missed the first 4 bands to catch the last 2 - Pela and British Sea Power. Through the friendly security, who apparently knows Sean enough to wave us through without checking ID (of course he also probably looked at me and said "old Guy - no need") and headed down to the groovy black-lit basement in time to scarf a few drinks and got a prime spot before Pela take the stage for the last time in 2007 before jetting to LA to record an album.

Prior to tonight's show I had only heard an EP from Pela, and I couldn't remotely recall their sound. Turns out they're a kicka-- indie rock band. Sean points out to me that the lead singer is the most un-indie guy he's ever seen - looks like a mini Henry Rollins minus the tattoos. I have found the first "indie" musician I feel can kick my ass.

I am turned into a fan by the second song. Loud, happy, and more than enough charisma to carry the crowd onto their side. I love rock that is unpretentious, fun, and playing at full capacity. Pela does this in spades, including jumping off the drum set, swinging guitars, reaching into the crowd...

...and wearing a towel as a headpiece. We as a group are enchanted with your delightful charm, Mr. Pela Lead Singer. For completely different reasons Pela was just as great as Stars was earlier in the evening.

Fit the Third - The Dirtbombs @ Mercury Lounge

Instead of sticking around in the air conditioning waiting for British Sea Power to come on, Sean is compelled to trek out to the Mercury Lounge to catch some of The Dirtbombs set. Exhausted but optimistic, I follow along in the uncharacteristic October humidity where we are treated to a 2-for-1 deal to get in. This may or may not be due to Sean's familiarity with the Door Lady.

It is hot, it is sticky, we are way in the back, and although on paper I should love this band, on this particular night the Dirtbombs sound out of tune, sloppy, and slightly drunk. Sean tells me this isn't the norm for them - they're usually a tight live band. The use of two bass guitars, two drums, and the sole guitar buried in the mix leaves me tired and unsatisfied. However, I really like the song we played in the car on the way home, hope is not yet abandoned. Maybe next time.

Fit the Last: British Sea Power @ Bowery Ballroom

Discouraged and by now yawning every five minutes, we trudge back to the Bowery in time to catch the last part of British Sea Power's set. By this time I'm so tired it will take a really special performance to perk me back up.

A big fat blah. I've heard these guys on record, and the nuance and sense of adventure on display on the records isn't anywhere in evidence here. Everything is loud and angry with no sense of separation between the instruments. Sean and I both confirm later that things seem a little "off."

British Sea Power come off a a band that didn't really care to be there, angry that they didn't have a larger crowd, and also slightly high (my impression). The end features a long, interesting jam with tons of feedback and much histrionics with the guitar. At the end everything is dropped to the ground and left on, causing a loud piercing tone to echo through the rapidly leaving crowd. There is no encore.

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We finally trudge back to the car to head home. I smell like sweat and chicken (due to a trip to The Three Monkeys - an Israeli restaurant), and am ready to collapse for 4 hours before I have to be back in the office. Sean will be back in action tonight, catching the Dirtbombs for a second time as well as seeing a dozen other bands. And I will be home trying to wash off this stamp before my son attempts to lick it off.