"It's a bit scary wandering around New York in the dark. Have you seen those unmarked (often open) manholes!?"
Suddenly we have a clearer understanding of why Frank Sinatra sang of New York: "...the city that never sleeps." Sure, there's lotsa partying being done, but also constant ambulance sirens, bottles being emptied from dump trucks into skips and road works make it pretty hard to catch any zeds.
Burger Records sounds like a rad way to start the day so we wander into Billyburg. The sound inside Baby's All Right is awesome as we kick off with a repeat dose of Step-Panther. User Friendly warms up our eardrums and it's a great way to chime in beer o'clock. Cotillon follow and they're doing what a lot of other indie bands have already done before them. There's little point of difference between songs. Gotta love this venue's multi-light panel backdrop, although it makes taking photos impossible.
Suddenly the way New York is laid out starts making sense and we discover all that's needed is a brisk, scenic stroll across Williamsburg Bridge to get to most of CMJ's Manhattan venues. So Pianos beckons. It's a shame said Bridge reeks of piss, though. As part of the Dr Martens Showcase, Oscar Scheller makes an instant impression both visually and aurally. Harry-High-501s, who also wears his bass above his waistband, accentuates this fashion (non)statement by tucking in a crisp, long-sleeved, white collared shirt. Scheller has also been vintage shopping as his Mickey Mouse T-shirt proves. His deep croon calls to mind Morrissey while the instrumentation channels Franz Ferdinand in their heyday. Scheller also has cheekbones to die. Gorgeous harmonies. They kinda all look like grown up Skins characters. Would come back for more. Scheller sips from a cup, announcing he drinks tea "like a true Brit". Daffodil Days by Oscar = certified hit.
Wow! There are snooty bitches in the Pianos house! Surely warning someone you'll momentarily obscure their view to take a quick photo is thoughtful, right? Yet the punter in question screws her face up as if I've just dropped a turd outta the bottom of my trouser leg. Fine then, I'll stay here permanently. Then another dude joins me. Instant karma. Quality.
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Upstairs, Hockey Dad bring the noise. Drummer Billy Fleming could not look more Aussie if he tried, shaking those sun-bleached locks around like Animal from The Muppet Show. There's something a bit Julian Casablancas about frontman Zach Stephenson's vocal and also his lackadaisical delivery (but without the attention to detail re: fashion sense). A dude in the front row with a pudding bowl haircut - who looks like he worked for NME when Oasis graced their covers - is Hockey Dad's cheerleader. The duo are harsh, raw and explosive while giving absolutely no fucks.
We hightail it to Cake Shop and watch Diet Cig on a TV behind the bar because the venue's so rammed. Frontlady Alex Luciano sounds a little Bjorky but looks French (she's actually from New York), somehow managing to achieve chic in frayed denim shorts. Diet Cig are a rambunctious, crashing duo. Then Luciano ends the set sprawled on her back.
After exiting Cake Shop, we bump into British India's bassist Will Drummond on Ludlow Street. He admits he's enjoying his Manhattan stroll and is searching for a vibe.
Prepare to get real. Yak, at Santos Party House, are the best thing we've seen so far and although busting to pee on entry, we can't bear to drag our asses away once we've locked horns with their majesty (and we promise we didn't realise they were already signed to Third Man Records!). We think they're playing NO, but can't be held accountable because what these gentlemen bring is some kind of horny witchcraft. Not many vocalists could pull off "I am the antichrist" lyrics, but not so much as a smirk is detected. There are no comparisons to be made. It was worth jumping on a flight from Australia just for this. Remember that dangerous, anything-can-happen feeling The Vines conjured? That would be Yak. And then frontman Oli Burslem puts on a black beanie and khaki anorak (onstage) while his band plays out. Then he leans against the side of the proscenium facing the crowd, looking bored, in silence. Delectable. Exhilarating. As the British do so incredibly well. The first band who have made us wonder whether there's merch available. (Sadly not.) Unfortunately, Yak's Steve Mackey (Pulp)-produced three-track EP doesn't land until 13 Nov. But we'd trade our souls for an embargoed stream.
Still frothing, we levitate upstairs to see the Liverpudlian Hooton Tennis Club, who are already playing. They may look like bong-smoking uni students, but when they fix into a laidback groove we're hooked. The band is focused and deliver, but we're still recovering from Yak. Not meaning to diminish Hoot..., but it's like pitting humans against 'roided-up pterodactyls from the future.
"I'm sorry, but Jimi's doing my head in," says an anonymous crowd member moving away from the speakers post-Hooton Tennis Club when a Hendrix track blasts from the venue's sound system.
Downstairs again, Car Seat Headrest slays, but the man whose mama christened him Will Toledo certainly doesn't look like a musician by profession. Yeah, yeah, it takes all sorts, but old mate defs looks like he's in IT. His axe-grinding mate wears his Amish nan's blouse (that badly needs an iron), plus he has braces on his teeth. Ridiculously accomplished and exhilarating.
En route back to Pianos, we overhear a majorly funky-looking door person say (in what sounds like a Jersey accent), "You're not on the list," before offering by way of consolation, "You guys look fantastic!" Side note: It's a bit scary wandering around New York in the dark. Have you seen those unmarked (often open) manholes!?