Live Review: BestNewBands.com’s CMJ Showcase At Brooklyn’s Matchless

New York – Well, CMJ 2013 was another whirlwind of music and networking and music and late nights more music. It was a full five days of the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan teaming with band members, racing from gig to gig and grabbing a quick slice or shot of espresso in between. Just watching them deepened my own fatigue, and I sure did a lot of watching. Here are the highlights of CMJ 2013 as I saw them:

The first night, Tuesday, was a very special occasion, as it was the first BestNewBands.com Official CMJ showcase, also know it was our first showcase of any kind anywhere. This was cause enough for the event we through to be momentous, but it was also an incredibly great show. Gracing the stage under the BestNewBands.com banner at Matchless we had Shilpa Ray, Kissing is a Crime, Grand Resort, Eastern Hollows, and Clouty.

Shilpa Ray was the major highlight, and her set was when it got the most sweaty. Commanding her harmonium with adept agility, Ray and her band (who are no longer the Happy Hookers, but a reassembled cast of talented musicians) played many of their familiar tune, as well as the new ones off her recently released EP, “It’s All Self Fellatio“. The new tracks are maybe more subdued and refined, with a noticeable extra pedal steel element. There’s still influences of punk and cabaret, and Shilpa Ray still tells it like it is with her resonating growls and on-point observations on society, but songs like “Mother Is An Misanthrope” show her really coming into her own and standing out more than before. Most of the comments I got from folks who hadn’t seen Shilpa before were strong declarations that they’ve found their new current obsession.

Kissing is a Crime played a high energy set of lo-fi post punk. Led by Matt Molnar, this new project composed of members of Friends, Soft Black, Pagan Rituals, and Beach Arabs, feels like it takes everyone’s best ability and combines it all into some good listening. Maybe this is mostly due to the vocals, but they remind me a little bit of Swedish indie pop band The Honeydrips, who are no longer a band. There’s an obscure reference for you.

Dream pop new wave shoegaze band Grand Resort played right before, taking the crowd on an awesome sounding vacation. Front man Andrés Pichardo grew up in the Dominican Republic listening to Brit pop and shoegaze, and now based in Brooklyn with a full band, he deftly combines his influences with his environment to create a dreamy soundscape that only exists when Grand Resort is playing.

Eastern Hollows has been one of my favorite local bands for some time now, and really deserve more ears turned their way. They also have Brit pop, dream pop, shoegaze elements, but take it in a more psych rock direction. “Summer’s Dead,” the current single off their forthcoming debut album, is their most recognizable track, with that super catching vocal melody in the chorus from front man Travis deVries. This is a band that feels like they have this potential to really rock out, and when they start headlining their own shows it’s going to be crazy.

Opening the night with an intimate solo performance was Clouty. Armed with a laptop, a mic, and some giant homemade projections on the screen behind him, he translated his bedroom pop with hand-drawn subtitles mixed with moving images, creating a glimpse inside this artist’s head.

Editor’s Note: Last week’s CMJ Music Marathon 2013 was a tremendous success, a whirlwind of A-list panels, networking, parties and concerts featuring hundreds of bands.  BestNewBands.com was excited to produce two concert showcases that were officially sanctioned by CMJ.  This review captures the first of those, both of which were curated by our long-time Brooklyn-based writer, Kelly Knapp.