CMJ 2009: Day 2 – Review (Beach Fossils, Free Energy, Findlay Brown, Tigercity, Bear Hands, Broadcast, Atlas Sound)

    Highly caffeinated in anticipation of another night spent criss-crossing the city, I started the second evening of CMJ at Santo’s Party House. I arrived just in time for Beach Fossils, whose frontman Dustin Payseur hopped shyly across the stage, belting out roughed-up surf-rock harmonies. Upstairs, Free Energy, a long-haired Philly quintet with a retro sensibility reminiscent of Thin Lizzy, had the crowd up and moving – perhaps inspired by sinewy singer Paul Sprangers, who was all about the gentle hip bump, the seesaw-shoulder, and other moves befitting a John Hughes dance montage.


    A visit to Bowery Ballroom yielded balladeer Findlay Brown, a British import whose curved pompadour and sleek crooning did little to conceal his anxiety about performing without his normal backing band. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a sole keyboardist, Brown admitted to being “scared shitless,” but made good use of looping pedals to round out his sound. Ultimately, Brown was far too sincere and commercial for my taste, and it was a relief when slick, synth-saturated, and ever so gently ironic Tigercity took the stage. A little bit of disco, a little bit of Hall and Oates, and a whole lot of falsetto, Tigercity made moves to up the sensuality factor in the room with the title track off their upcoming album, Ancient Lover. “That was sexy,” said a girl standing next to me, “– but not as sexy as this next song.” (“Powerstripe,” for those looking to bolster their seduction playlist.)


    A few blocks away at Mercury Lounge, Bear Hands played a tight mix of older, tried-and-true tracks and new songs the group is currently recording in the studio for their first LP. Bear Hands’ newer work showed the band exploring and refining their sound, while — thankfully — remaining refreshingly rock and roll.


    I then booked it across the river for Atlas Sound at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, managing to squeeze in a few minutes of Broadcast, who had the sold-out crowd in a trance with their delicate and sonorous interplay (the trippy projections flashing above the stage probably didn’t hurt).


    Atlas Sound was all about frontman Bradford Cox (not surprising, considering the band entered with Cox bathed in a spotlight), who glided about the stage, gracefully transitioning between guitar, drums, and harmonica. To cope with a snapped string, Cox moved from acoustic guitar to electric, dryly noting, “this show is pretty off the rails now… there’s no turning back.” While not exactly off the rails, the show did meander, through surefire crowd-pleasers “Walkabout” and “Logos” — as well as Cox’s running and self-deprecating commentary — buoyed the set.


    Photo Credit: Margarita Gonzalez/