NME CMJ Showcase at The Delancey, Thursday, October 22nd

The Antlers at Music Hall of Williamsburg - CMJ 2009 (October 20th, 2009) by Amanda M Hatfield.

Punctuality is rarely a quality in musicians, so the fact that the NME Showcase on Thursday was off-schedule by 2 hours, is inconsequential. The music was well worth the wait.

The Delancey was swimming with people both outside and inside the venue, itching to get a glance at some of the top names at CMJ this year—We Are Enfant Terrible, Reni Lane, Yes Giantess, Suckers, Delorean, The Antlers, Male Bonding, Bear Hands, and an “X-rated special guest.” Clever.

Barcelona beat producers Delorean, the generally unkempt dance-pop dudes, got the crowd to jump and shake and bob, performing tracks from their catalogue. But then, after a long prep session, the stage switched gears completely, welcoming Brooklyn trio The Antlers, the much-hyped creators of break-out album “Hospice” (French Kiss Records, 2009). The members started off whimsically, prefacing “Bear,” as Peter Silberman’s voice grew and quivered, soaked in melancholy, sweat slapping his guitar. They followed with more tracks from “Hospice” and after each one Silberman seemed to weep a little, which lent his voice increasing character. But the problem with performing such a conceptual album—“Hospice” has a streaming narrative throughout detailing death and love—is that you can’t match its theatrics. But instead, when played live it acquires a guttural feeling, almost desperate, clamoring for attention with its loudness. A compliment, I swear. Not better or worse, just different.

Antlers closed abruptly after playing only five songs, but appropriately with the beautifully elevating “Two.” Silberman sang “Then they stuck you in machines, you came so close to dying/They should have listened, they thought that you were lying,” emotion spilling onto the audience. So in the end, media hype here is justified. The Antlers are just good.

Following up a highly-anticipated band can be jarring, but Bear Hands were just the men to do it. Their brand of pop-punk/funk alt brought a lot of personality to the cramped room, performing tracks from their “Golden EP” and other live favorites, like “Vietnam,” which opened the set with attitude blaring from lead singer and admittedly mediocre guitarist—his opinion, not mine—Dylan Rau’s lips. It was another five-song set, but even in just those five, it was obvious this band has it. I don’t quite know what that it is, but I’m fervently sure that it exists.

There’s no better example of this than when they perform “Sickly Brunette,” drummer TJ Orscher flailing his sticks; bassist Val Loper taking a break from his funky bass line to accompany Orscher on percussion, vindictive on his floor tom; guitarist Ted Feldman engrossed in his chords; Rau devouring the mic, feet pigeon-toed scurrying like an awkward James Brown. The irony of it all: they’re from Connecticut.

So experience Bear Hands’ itness for yourself. Visit the band’s MySpace for new tracks and info on upcoming shows in Connecticut and Sao Paulo, Brazil (Viagem segura!).

You would think they would have a somewhat decent band to preface the headliners, the x-traordinary special guests (ok, fine, you twisted my arm, it was The xx). But no, someone decided to book Male Bonding, a UK troop that by definition blow. Since I don’t know their names and don’t really care to, my recap will be shallow. Pink Pants hopped around stage, making sounds with his guitar. Where’s Waldo dude sat behind drums. And Ahmet Zappa talked into the mic. This is all.  

But then The xx regaled all with their pre-pubescent looking presence, all black attire, and minimalist tunes. Part of the majesty of the Londoners’ performance is the presentation, as they all line up facing the crowd, doing drastically different things with drastically different demeanors. They quieted down the noisy showcase with tracks like “Crystalised,” “Basic Space,” and “Islands” from their 2009 LP “xx,” embodying the noir/new wave appeal of the album, proclaiming their talent subtly to eager Lower East Siders. So thanks, kids. That was by far one of the true highlights of CMJ weekend.

-Paola Capo-Garcia

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