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Tom Hawking's CMJ Diary: Part Three

20 October 2012 | 11:32 am | Live From CMJ

Various Aus music types who I semi-recognise filter down the stairs. Much back-slapping ensues. If anyone at this party calls me "mate", I'm leaving.


Guhhhhhhhhhhhhhh is it day three already?



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More coffee.


Peruse day three schedule. Feel somewhat underwhelmed. There's always one day when despite the fact that there's a bazillion shows happening around town, you can't actually find anything you want to see. As far as CMJ 2012, it appears that Thursday 18 October is that day. As Bruce Springsteen once said, "I can see by your eyes, friend, you're just about gone/Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on…” I'm sure it seems insufferably entitled to be complaining, but shit, I could really do with a day in bed.


But no! Once more into the breach. One of the gigs that looks like it might be kinda fun is the Bust magazine showcase at Spike Hill, where occasional photographer Leila Morrissey is DJing under the name DJ Roller Girl. Aussies take over! Onto the bicycle!


But wait, first, bacon and eggs.


Right! Onto the bicycle!


Hills: further proof, along with mosquitoes, that God does not exist.

Bust Magazine Showcase, Spike Hill, Bedford Ave

Clever move to Bust for choosing Williamsburg for this showcase — it's an excellent turnout for a weekday afternoon, mainly because no-one who lives in this neighbourhood has a job.


OK, OK, that's not entirely fair. Not everyone in Williamsburg is an insufferably entitled trust fund kid, although the stereotype does exist for a reason. Having said that, the crowd here is thoroughly agreeable, perhaps because Bust doesn't really appeal to the trustafarian crowd (they're all busy ironically reading Pitchfork and GvB instead.) Also entirely agreeable are the band who's playing when I arrive — they're called Agent Ribbons, and they're a raucous guitar'n'drums two-piece from Texas who remind me a lot of Super Wild Horses.


To the bar.


"Oh, man, you're from Australia? Like, dude, every time someone from Australia comes into this bar, they ask for Cooper's. One guy even taught me how to roll the bottle — like, you roll it six times to the left and six times to the right and… Hey, you're press? Man, my band played last night, you should have come…"


"But dude, he told me that you have to roll it six times…"



East River Tattoo, Franklin St, Greenpoint

OK, quick detour to East River Tattoo, where a friend is getting a Twin Peaks tattoo on his arm. Quick conceptual detour to go with the journey: Twin Peaks arguably just as popular now than it was in the 1990s when it screened first time around. It remains the unlikeliest of cultural phenomena: the story of an abused girl told through the extended metaphor of supernatural possession by a freaky stage decorator who accidentally ended up in one of David Lynch's test shots. This probably says something about the state of American society, although I'm not entirely sure what.


Pro tip: apparently talking about Death Grips relaxes you if someone is taking to your arm with a medieval-looking tattoo device. Who knew?


Tattoo is done! Back on the bike to the Bust party.


I arrive back at Spike Hill in time to catch the other band on the bill, who are called Lightning Love and who do a fine line in pleasantly catchy pop music. They're also of a literate bent, by the sound of their lyrics. This has been a pretty solid show, actually — much more enjoyable than some of the bigger name showcases this week.


A heap of friends from out of town arrive! Much carousing and hugging and drink-buying ensue, the details of which I'll spare you. Fast forward to...

About 6.30pm

One more beer won't hurt, right?

About 7.30pm

It's much more difficult riding home from Spike Hill than it was riding there. The road appears to be moving.

Just before 8pm
NY Conversation Mansion, Bushwick

Afternoon drinking: I should be old enough to know better.

About 8pm

Still, this is nothing a quick disco nap won't fix. Forty winks and I'll be ready for action in no time. Just have to make sure to set an ala…








Sigh. This here is an issue, gentle readers: after about 9pm, it gets harder and harder to get into showcases, because they fill up and suddenly your shiny new press badge doesn't get you into anything. The whole flitting-from-venue-to-venue thing becomes more difficult every year, and once the 10pm threshold is passed, it becomes pretty much impossible — you settle on a place to stay and you stay there, unless you want to end up in a queue waiting for people to leave a venue before you can get in. Which, clearly, balls to that.


A friend texts to say she's upstairs at Pianos on the Lower East Side and that I should be able to get in there. OK. Fine. This means missing Kirin J Callinan's set at Shea Stadium, but I wouldn't have made it there in time anyway. Still, Australian readers don't need me to tell them how awesome Kirin J is anyway, do they? Sigh.


Shit, I'd better actually eat something, too.

Mikey's Burger, Ludlow St

Sadly not named for certain distinguished writers of street press past, Mikey's is the Lower East Side's home of the so-bad-it's-indescribably-awesome burger. I opt for a BLT burger, which comes with Chinese-style bacon, melted cheese, some sort of mysteriously delicious mayonnaise and about six months' worth of your recommended daily intake of fat. It's fucking awesome.


Like, really fucking awesome.

Old Flame/A Heart is a Spade Showcase, Pianos, Ludlow St

I do indeed get into Pianos with a minimum of fuss, although the place is as packed as pretty much every other venue in NYC tonight. This place is a kinda mid-ranking LES institution, with pricey drinks, a curious half-suited-dickheads-half-grungey-rock-kids clientele, and shows of wildly diverging quality depending on what night you turn up. It's also known for its lethally strong margaritas, in which I will absolutely not be partaking after the debacle that this afternoon turned into.


The band playing as I arrive go by the name of Turf War. They're, y'know, alright. Dudes with guitars.


I have a sensible glass of water with Jess Cornelius of Teeth And Tongue, who is playing several shows this week, at least one of which I am very much looking forward to checking out.


Oooh, well now. Mean Creek, who've just taken the stage, are several orders of magnitude louder than Turf War. This must mean that they are very rock 'n' roll indeed.




Bassist turns toward his amp and plays just that little bit more vigorously. Singer gives knowing nod to guitarist, as if they're in on a secret that the rest of the world just doesn't understand. Drummer grins in patented mad rock 'n' roller drummer manner. Kill me now.


Rock 'n' roll as an artform is half a century old. This music is a facsimile of a facsimile of a facsimile. What's the point? Like, seriously, what's the point?


I fully expect this band to smash guitars/throw the drumkit around at the end of their set. I'll never know, however, because I'm not staying that long.


I am not old and jaded.


T&T suggests that we head to the Sounds Australia event a few blocks north in the East Village. There's booze to be had!


Taped to a telephone pole on Ludlow St: a home-printed piece of A4 paper proclaiming "FUNKY RANCH FOR SALE! Only $495,000." Yes indeed — we really are in a city where people attempt to sell farms in the same way that other people attempt to sell bicycles and unwanted white goods. Judging by the fact that all but two of the little tags (with contact details etc) at the bottom of the paper have been torn away, there's a market for this sort of thing. It beats Craigslist, I guess.

Sounds Australia event, Klimat Lounge, E 7 St

It turns out that we are the first people to this party. We're ushered through what appears to be a fish restaurant down a flight of stairs to a rather swanky bar that smells, unsurprisingly, of fish. The lights are still on, and the barman is still setting up. It feels like arriving at a high school when the hosts' parents haven't left yet, before everyone gets drunk enough to forget that they're shy and awkward.


Various Aus music types who I semi-recognise filter down the stairs. Much back-slapping ensues.


If anyone at this party calls me "mate", I'm leaving.




Oh, alright, it's not that bad. At least the music that's being played is good, and this is quite a pleasant little bar. I ask the barman for water. He tells me that he can't be bothered to go upstairs to get it, and can I just have cranberry juice instead?


I am not very good at schmoozing.


Right, now, it's time to confront a mid-week CMJ dilemma: drag my sorry arse to Santo's Party House — home of Andrew WK, don't you know — in the hope of catching the tail end of Sky Ferreira's set, or cut my losses and go home to bed?


Well, maybe Santo's might be alright. I could always get a taxi there.


A little voice inside me whispers forcefully: IF YOU GO TO SANTO'S YOU ARE DOOMED.






Why hello, mister taxi driver! Oh, you'll happily drive me to Bushwick? And tuck me into bed? Hurrah! Straight across the Williamsburg Bridge and I'll direct you from there.




Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Oh, yes, hello, bed. I remember you. Let's never fight again.