CMJ: Mexican Summer Bummer
Last night, I did a strange thing and actually attended a CMJ showcase. My decision to go was shocking and out of character for two reasons:
- I don’t even really understand what CMJ is. All I know is that every October, New York gets inundated with new bands and everyone gets super stressed out. People tell me things like, “Oh God, CMJ is back. I’m going to be so busy for the next week. It’s going to be insane.” Their purpose at CMJ is always vague but it’s usually something along the lines of, “I’m covering this band and then I have to go to this after-party for this person…” Blah, blah, blah. It’s sort of like fashion week for nerds, I guess.
- I’m too old to go to shows. Seriously. My legs grow tired, I get impatient and I’m surrounded by drunk 16 year-olds. Back in the day, I would go to any show: Christian, hardcore, pop-punk, Christian hardcore pop-punk. You name it, I was there. But I was also super bored when I was 16 and now I have, like, stuff to do.
But when I stumbled upon a flyer for CMJ’s Mexican Summer showcase, I knew I had to attend. For those who are unfamiliar, Mexican Summer is a stellar little record label that has put out stuff by Best Coast, Washed Out, Dunes and Puro Instinct. They’re partially responsible for the recent shoegaze resurgence and every band I’ve heard on their label has become My New Favorite Band.
I only recognized two of the six acts on the line-up but I didn’t let that deter me. I had blind faith in the label’s music taste–so much so that I didn’t even bother to look up any of the other bands’ music beforehand. This turned out to be one giant mistake. Here’s how it all went down.
7:30- Arrive at The Knitting Factory. The first band, No Joy, is supposed to go on now but the bouncer tells me it will be 8:00. Curses!
8:05- No Joy, one of my favorite Mexican Summer bands, takes the stage. They’re fronted by two babes wearing oversized flannel, denim shorts and leggings. Their faces are obscured by their long hair and it’s kind of hot.
8:15- Their music sounds like 90s’ grunge but infinitely more depressing–if you can imagine that. It’s amazing.
8:20- They’re headbanging!
8:25- And playing with their backs to the audience. ~~shy gurlz~~
8:40- After the set, I bombard the lead singer and mention that I’m interviewing them for a magazine next week. She seems stoked and then for some inexplicable reason, I tell her that I want her to talk “in poetry” for the entire interview. She looks confused but then promises me that she’ll speak exclusively in haikus. Ugh, I’m kind of drunk.
9:00- Viva L’american Death Ray Music takes the stage and they turn out to be as awful as their name would suggest. They’re wearing white face paint and scarves around their head. I can’t.
9:22- My friend texts me a description of their music: “Talking Heads meets Sugarcult in bad music hell.” Truer words have never been texted.
9:30- Now they’re breaking out into spoken word. Over a drum machine.
9:32- They try to play another song but the DJ turns on the lights and cues up a song. Bye. XOXO, CMJ Boy.
10:00- That’s funny. Why hasn’t the next band played yet?
10:15- This isn’t funny.
10:25- They came on stage but then left. That’s illegal.
10:30. The band, Soldiers of Fortune, finally start playing. It sounds like intense psychedelic jam music which essentially means that their songs are two minutes too long.
10:35- I go across the street to grab a slice of pizza.
10:45- I come back and find a new band already setting up?! Apparently, Soldiers of Fortune only played three songs. Well, that’s what you get for taking a 45 minute cigarette break when you’re supposed to be playing. This is CMJ, buddies. People have schedules! They have to be across town in ten minutes to see Wild Nothing and then go to the Piano’s after-party. This just screws everything up!
11:00- Robert Lester Folsom’s band comes on stage and I’m sort of confused. First of all, they’re old. Maybe in their 50s or 60s? Which is fine, I love that for them, but they don’t necessarily fit Mexican Summer’s vibe. Come to think of it, none of these bands (minus No Joy) fit MS’s vibe. I’m so confused and depressed and drunk.
11:15- Robert Lester Folsom sounds like that band Chicago.
11:20- The lead singer explains the meaning of each song. So far, they’ve been about burning Thanksgiving dinner and Dora The Explorer
11:30- Oh my god. They just told the audience that they were ”big in the 70s’” and Mexican Summer has reunited them. This makes so much sense. Now, I’m slightly less confused and a little more drunk.
11:45. Before Tamaryn sets up, I ask a cute boy in a beanie what he thinks of the showcase so far. “Um, it’s cool. I’m really only here for Tamaryn. I’m probably going to leave after her set.” I want to say, “Take me with you” but I realize that’s a little forward. We might have to work up to that.
12:00- Tamaryn, Beautiful Goddess of the Dreamy Shoegaze Sea, takes the stage in all black. She’s wearing high heels, knee socks, a high-waisted skirt and a sparkly crop top. She looks like the ultimate 90s’ gothic princess and I’m so so so happy.
12:15- The band has amazing visuals projected on stage of an ocean and flowers and shit. She reminds me a lot of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star but with less social-anxiety.
12:30- Their music sounds like Vicodin curled up in a blanket with your boyfriend while he rubs your back and tells you that you’re the one. Or something.
12:50- They finish their set and I want to talk to Tamaryn but she’s hanging out with Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and I can’t deal.
1:00- Lower Dens, the last band, takes the stage. They’re fronted by a cute butch lesbian which I respond to. The music sounds both noisy and mellow and I like it. They, along with Tamaryn and No Joy, represent the Mexican Summer sound. I don’t know why we had to take a detour into spoken word and classic rock but we did and now I have to forgive.
1:15- I’ll forgive later. Right now, I’m in a cab going over the bridge and my ears ring and my legs hurt and I’m not really drunk anymore. CMJ Mexican Summer confused me but I know that I’ll be okay, that we’ll all be okay eventually. Till next year (or not)…
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”