Webster Hall – NYC
Live Review: 10/16/12
11:00 P.M. – LED lights emanate from the stage; where this light shines the brightest, they dance the hardest. In the center is a head banger ball following the ecstatic demeanor of the DJ. Those standing in the darkness outside the realm of the LED are listening quietly without much of a groove.
There are people of all walks of life on hand at Webster Hall in the East Village for the first night of the 2012 CMJ Music Festival. The venue is ubiquitous amongst NYU and the general underage population as the go-to under-21 spot.
There is a distinct teen scene. Everyone has pre-gamed hard and is generally avoiding the bar. They are loose and ready for a good sound. It’s clearly not a 21-plus crowd.
The artist, Teen Daze, plays a synth pop sound in the Marlin Room. The music is mellow, occasionally upbeat, and droning. His beats are drawn out, which sometimes makes the song monotonous.
It’s by no means an easy crowd. But it is definitely a supportive one, anxious to hear the best of new and emerging artist performing at CMJ.
“May the best song win,” band manager Jason Anon said.
The artist are having fun on stage with a responsive crowd, trying their best to rouse the energy level with beats that make the girls move their hips, or the crowd clap their hands. Faced with short sets of four or five songs, the artists are compelled to put their best foot forward as they look to stand out amongst a crowded list of artists at this year’s festival.
Downstairs at Webster, a rock n’ roll laden scene breaks the electronic mood in the Marlin Room. Most of the crowd descends to this scene after Teen Daze ends around 11:30. There they stand, watching The Last Royals, an indie-rock group that blends bluesy bass lines with loud, crooning lyrics.
“I want my song to be the last song at a dance.” lead singer Erik James said. “It’s all about having a great song,”
James has long brown hair that he is constantly pushing over his ear as he sings on stage. He switches between vocals and playing guitar. He is moving “like Jagger”, getting the attention of all the girls in the crowd. They scream and grasp their hands in the air, as James sings a song with a hook, “I think I hate California.”
Before the song started, he asked the crowd: “Anyone here from California.”
True to my NorCal pride, I started yelling and hollering “Yeahhh!!! Californiaaa!!!”
“Where in California are you from?”
“Never heard of it.”
My photographer and friend from Cupertino, Emily, commented backstage that he was pretty hot, even though she isn’t really into guys with long hair. She giggles and covers her mouth. Backstage, musical equipment is moving left and right on stage and out. My photographer and I are standing pressed to the wall, in a crammed room where all the couches are full of crap and a bucket of ice with bottles of water.
As we interview James, we notice a blind pianist wearing black wayfarers walking cautiously forward with his walking stick. His piano nearly edges my photographer into the wall. The pianist recognizes this immediately and is very apologetic.
We head back into the crowd. The pianist takes off his wayfarers. The crowd is packing up and fixated on what the pianist can bring to the table. As the music starts, the pianist goes nuts, his entire body moves with vigor.The band introduces themselves midway as The Ambassadors. The lead singer, Sam Harris, plays drums with great intensity, in addition to lead vocals. His vibe grooves perfectly with the pianist, his brother, Casey, who remains their most animated headbanger throughout their set.
“We feed off each other,” Sam Harris said. “Every member of the band makes a contribution.”
The Ambassadors sound is more hectic and full of angst. Sam’s face drips with sweat as he screeches into the microphone that tastes like “sweaty mouths” and thrashes on a drum, As his band breaks apart their equipment at the end of their set and head backstage, another artist, Jane Doe, rushes out to replace their spot, eager to begin their short stint in a spotlight.
“If we knew the formula, then we wouldn’t be here,” Anon said. “They got to play a good song and do their best.”
All photos by Emily Malan.