Polyvinyl Records is undoubtably one of the best indie labels out there today, if not of all time. With a roster that includes everyone from Of Montreal to Headlights, they held a stellar showcase at the Bell House during CMJ where every performer seemed to be more brilliant than the one before. The venue, which was packed to near capcity, was one of the must sees on Friday night.
I arrived just as the band Owen, also known as one of Mike Kinsella’s many projects, was about to hit the stage and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have heard both good and bad things about their live performance, but I never thought I would experience what I did. Owen played none of their own songs but instead performed nearly all of the Oasis album, (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory (Epic), which was a confusing yet brilliant surprise. Not all of the fans in the crowd were pleased with this fact, but Kinsella and company couldn’t care less as they laughed it off saying “Hey, it took a long time to learn these songs!” There was no end in sight to their madness and they pulled it off well.
Up next was Aloha frontman, Cale Parks who was showcasing his solo work. Taking a far different approach from what he does with his band, Parks stuck to playing digital drums and singing, bringing a very interesting performance to the stage. One ongoing trend of CMJ this year seemed to be the use of digital drums though Parks mastered them like no one else did at the festival.
Also to take the stage was James Husband, the glam drummer from Of Montreal. Husband is currently showcasing his new solo project, joined by Dottie Alexander and Davey Pierce also from Of Montreal. This was one of the first of his solo performances and he did it like an old pro. A stretch from the glitz and glitter of his regular gig, he brought a bit of retro, garage and twee to the stage, and though most people would not have expected it from him, it fits him like a glove.
I stayed just long enough to catch Headlights who displayed a variety of tracks from their newest album,Wildlife (Polyvinyl). With three shows in two days at CMJ, Headlights lit up the stage with their male and female counterpart vocals. They come off sweet and sugary on their albums but onstage they unleash the lions, and the crowd seemed to like it. Singer Erin Fein’s voice is heavenly and it fills the room, taking the songs to a whole new level live.
In all, it was a fantastic night of music. Polyvinyl has proven itself to be a label that can stand the test of time, as we wait in excitement for more good things to come.