Secret Mountains kicked off the showcase at Williamsburg’s Trash Bar around 8 p.m. on the first night of CMJ. Spacey instrumentals paired with clear, defiant vocals set off flighty effects and dreamy weightless hooks. This five-piece proved capable of packing emotion in an understated way—heightened pitch and accelerated tempo assembled into a quiet force.
After a Black Flag-filled interlude, Vancouver’s extremely animated Sex With Strangers took the stage, and wacky antics ensued. Frontman Hatch Benedict proceeded to rub his own chest and don a silver cat mask. Female vocalists emitted extraneous grunts and oohs amid electro soundbytes. Although its sound was inconsistent (Sex With Strangers opened with heavy rock, threw in some groove and tossed about synth) it almost made sense given the strange performance. “New City Anthem” closed out the set on a pop note.
Old Monk came third. This indie-rock trio played it barebones, accentuating chilled-out playful beats with heavy bass. Soft-spoken but undaunted, vocalist Josh Carrafa had noticeable fun tossing out melodic verses to the crowd. Peppy tunes riddled with rambling rock splices kept it interesting.