Guys, we made it. Another CMJ has come and gone, and I don’t know about you, but my brain is bursting with enough new music to hold me until next year’s fest. For my last stop of the week, I put all my eggs in the Aussie BBQ’s basket at the Delancey. Having stumbled upon some absolute gems last year, my expectations were high, and as per always, the Australians did not disappoint.
Tigertown took the downstairs stage early in the afternoon, and helped keep energy high with their pop-rock undercut with a folky sound (think the Eagles/America mixed with dampened version of the Ting Tings.) Lead singer Charlie Collins has a sweet voice, but is by no means limited by it. Within that sweetness she has this incredible ability to emote. Her “ooo”s in Wandering Eyes, for example, carry this sad sort of weight to them that alters a simple song into something so much more. Combine that with the harmonies she creates with bassist Elodie and guitar player Chris, and there is a depth that just hits your ears in all the right places. They’ve certainly mastered the art of the catchy chorus. Go Now has been stuck in my head for the past two days, even after seeing multiple other bands. Tigertown creates songs that are universally appealing, and could easily (given the right opportunity) take over the airwaves in the same way that someone like the Lumineers have been able to do. Keep your ears on this act, they have the potential to do big things.
Clad in tribal necklaces and at least a few tattoos each, the Griswolds took the stage and powered through their set of “tequila-inspired party pop.” Now that description probably undercuts them a bit considering it would lead you to believe they are terrible, when in fact they are concocting creatively composed pop songs that are as catchy as they are intriguing. Singer Christopher Whitehall has a vocal range that sits at the higher end of the spectrum, but he takes advantage of that by popping in and out of his falsetto, molding interesting and unexpected melodies that go beyond the basics of just a good tune. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is appealing about a band, and the Griswolds fall into that category. There is just something special there, a little sparkle that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the music itself, but maybe the chill, fun vibe these four guys give off. Unfortunately their set ended a bit prematurely, as the strict time restraint forced them to cut their last song, even after the boisterous crowd protests prompted them to do otherwise. But the best possible way to leave a stage is to have a crowd cheering for more, so clearly the Griswolds were doing something right.
Catching City Riots set was a happy accident. After venturing up to the Delancey’s rooftop to check out the “BBQ” part of the Aussie BBQ, a last minute decision was made to check out one more band. Best. Decision. Yet. The third mixed-gendered band of the day (and also the third female bassist), City Riots commanded the tiny Delancey stage, blasting out a handful of indie-rock tracks that demonstrated a surprising amount of intricacy in the layered and intertwining guitar riffs. Singer Ricky has a hypnotic quality to his voice. It was simultaneously gloomy and angelic as it floated over the jingling guitar lines in Wait for You. In this case, Ricky’s ability to blend his voice in with the music rather than forcing it to stand out only adds another layer to the soundscape that City Riots produces.
Three of the buzziest bands of the fest—Courtney Barnett, the Preatures and Sheppard—also performed among all the fine Australian awesomeness. After so many years of so much great rock from Down Under, can we all agree there’s something in the water over there? In general, had you popped into the Aussie BBQ at the start (2pm) and stayed til the end (god knows), it’d have been a wise way to spend your last day at the 2013 CMJ Music Marathon.
Photos by Kassy Balli, Rachel Barrish, Asta Fivgas and Deanna Wallach.