Friday, October 29, 2010

CMJ Music Marathon: The Majorleans & Michael Daves

I’m somewhat ashamed to say that this was the first year that I took full advantage of the CMJ Music Marathon, but I’m proud to say that I did it in style. Last week, even more than usual, downtown Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, were ripe with opportunities to see live music. (In New Yorker–speak, CMJ “whip[s] downtown Manhattan into a Felliniesque lather, set to a soundtrack by more than a thousand next big things.”) I managed to catch a good number of new artists and drink a good number of $3 beers. I’ll report on the former over the next couple of weeks.

CMJ opened on Tuesday night, and rather than spend a few hours in line for the free Yo La Tengo show at Brooklyn Bowl, I chose to check out some fresher acts at Rockwood Music Hall and the Living Room.

I went to Rockwood to see the Majorleans, whom I’ve caught there a couple of times before. They continue a tried-and-true tradition of rock music that takes pride in its country and R&B heritage.

On their self-titled EP from last year, they took a fairly poppy approach to that tradition. But their current show has a looser, darker approach that I find to be more interesting. I particularly enjoyed a few moments when they ventured into the experimental, with mildly dissonant guitar passages and a less straightforward vocal style. It’s exciting to see a band finding its voice.

Nonetheless, “Keep It Moving,” the EP’s closer, is one hell of a catchy tune, which is hard to argue with.

The Majorleans - Keep It Moving [mp3] (iTunes)

Prior to the Majorleans, singer and guitarist Michael Daves played his regular Tuesday-night gig at Rockwood, although this performance was technically part of CMJ as well (as were, it’s worth noting, pretty much every other musical performance that took place in the city during the week).

I’d never heard of Daves before, but his Rockwood residency has lasted a couple of years now and produced a live album. He draws upon another set of old and rootsy traditions: those of blues and bluegrass. These are certainly not my areas of expertise, but I can say without hesitation that he is a marvelously skilled musician and an intense performer. As for the rest, he ably spoke for himself in a 2008 interview and performance on WNYC’s Soundcheck. And this live performance of the Stanley Brothers’ “I Only Exist” from (naturally) Rockwood Music Hall should seal the deal.

Michael Daves - I Only Exist (live) [mp3]

(Photo of Michael Daves by Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times)

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