The best showcase I caught at CMJ - and probably the best one that there was - was the free afternoon showcase at Knitting Factory on Saturday.
It was my first trip to the new Knitting Factory - they opened their Williamsburg location a month or two ago - and I was pretty impressed. It's a little fancy-seeming both compared to the old Knitting Factory and compared to Luna Lounge, the space's last incarnation. What was once one big room is now split into a front room, with a bar and beer garden style tables, and the room with the stage, visible from the front room through glass windows. The stage is at the back wall, making the area for the audience shallow and wide, good news for visibility. The sound was great too.
The first band I caught was Jeff the Brotherhood, featuring brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, founding members of Be Your Own Pet. The two rock prodigies, Jake on guitar and Jamin on drums (don't be confused that the guitar says "Jamin," Jake named it after his brother), play irresistible tunes that move deftly between punk and classic rock. Classifying the band is pretty pointless, just resulting in nonsense terms like "psychedelic grunge-pop." Anyway, they sound pleasantly familiar, but refreshingly unlike most of the buzz bands of the moment.
I wrote up the band once before, and was equally impressed this time. Their music has hooks and doesn't try to sound quaintly spare or incompetent. For only two guys, they make a rich, full sound and don't try to hide the fact that they are fuckin good at guitar and drums. Come to think of it, I can't thing of a single bad thing to say about the band. There's no gimmick, there's no detached posturing, there's just rock music at its best. [MySpace]
After this, Screaming Females took the stage. This was the third time I've seen them and this time, they finally completely won me over. The first time, I couldn't really hear the singing (I'm increasingly thinking that was a bad night and not reflecting the band's abilities at the time), and the second time, the sound was a bit too messy for me to get the full effect. This time, everything was perfect.
To put it simply, Screaming Females represent everything that has ever been good about rock and roll. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I mean it genuinely. Frontwoman Marissa Paternoster sings like PJ Harvey channeling John Lennon and plays guitar like every rock hero from 70's arena blues-rock to 90's punky alternative. Despite her unassuming mumblings between songs ("hiwe'rescreamingfemales"), she's one badass lady, giving the finger to the un-edgy leanings of the current indie scene. (Certainly, I'm not the only one who is sick of edgeless bands like Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent and the rest.*)
And if Paternoster is doing more for BIG, un-shy guitar than anyone since the likes of J. Mascis and Billy Corgan**, the rest of her band aren't doing any less to remind the world of what a good ROCK AND ROLL rhythm section can be. The bass leads carry the weight of the songs while the drums supplement head-banging worthy guitar riffs.
I really can't say enough about this band. If the future of rock music rests in their hands, I feel pretty sure we'll be OK. They've got it into them to defeat the reign of hipster crap once and for all. Let's hope they do. [MySpace]
The final act of the show was SubPop's Obits, who were miserably disappointing. I thought the Obits were a punk band. I apologize if I misled anyone into believing this. I'm still trying to figure out if I had them confused with someone else or if I just got the wrong idea from some song I heard. In any case, Obits are basically a bar band. They aren't bad, but there are thousands upon thousands of bands that sound just about the same. [MySpace]
* Just to be totally clear, Screaming Females seem way too nice to hate on other bands. The hating is all me.
** Don't hate! (And yes, I realize that sounds hypocritical. I don't care.)