Saturday night was the finale for CMJ 2012, five days jam-packed (literally) with panels, shows, powwows, and late nights. It was like cramming a month into a week. The final show that I was not mad about at all was Wild Nothing, BRAIDS, and Weekend at Bowery Ballroom. In a way, this show summed up the whole festival for me, as the whole experience seemed to transcend reality for a few days, much like the sentiment in Wild Nothing’s “Live In Dreams” (which was placed right in the middle of the set, after the crowd was well into an induced dream-state). I guess that’s why they call it “dream-pop.”
The dream door began to become ajar with “Shadow,” the breezy brush-off opening track off Wild Nothing’s new album, Nocturne. From there things began to flow seamlessly as Jack Tatum and his well-rehearsed backing band went through their set. There was little between song narration, besides an acknowledgement and gratitude of the packed Ballroom. The setlist was an almost perfectly equal blend of the first album, Gemini, with the latest, only heavier on the latter by a couple songs, with “Golden Haze” from the Evertide EP thrown in as well. The encore consisted of crowd favorite “Summer Holiday,” a four-minute holiday I could take any time of year.
BRAIDS was on right before, playing all new songs on their forthcoming album. They’ve taken their ambient art rock into a more groovy electronic direction, with vocalist Katie Lee opting to stay on a keyboard and leaving the guitar behind. The trio formed a tight U on the stage, with the drum kit in the middle, and synths/samples facing each other on either side. It was a new feeling from the last time I saw them (also at Bowery Ballroom), that was more grounding and dance-inducing than disorienting and abstract.
Weekend is moving in their own sphere of evolution, still keeping that super delayed and reverbed wall of sound that draws from post-punk bands like Joy Division. New track from an upcoming 2013 album, “Sirens,” weaves in some more solid atmospheric textures. If the words “solid” and “atmospheric” can go together the way they do in my mind, I think they’re also onto a whole other level of sonic dream state.
Rapturous familiarity with sparks of something new and enticing is what I remember of this show, and the whole past week. CMJ turned out to be not only a showcase of all the cool things currently happening in music right now, but also that there are still fresh things to come to get your adrenaline pumped. Going into the new year should be one hell of a ride.