CMJ 2012, Day One Recap: Quilt Get Trippy, Midnight Hollow Go Big + More
Anticipating a hectic week, Diffuser.fm eased into night one of CMJ 2012, opting to catch a mere three bands at two venues and save some energy for later in the festival. Tuesday's highlight was Quilt, who performed at Arlene's Grocery on the Lower East Side. The Boston trio bills itself as "kids from the '80s dreaming about people from the '60s," and that about covers it. There's an ethereal, vintage-4AD dream-pop quality to their songs, as co-leaders Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski use a plethora of guitar pedals to make their notes sparkle and swirl and nudge listeners toward Sleepy Town, but their harmonies -- bolstered by drummer John Andrews -- hark back to the Mamas & the Papas.
Amid all the tranquil sandal-gaze noodling, the group occasionally rocked out, and 'Milo' -- which features the line, "You're lost in your head / Why won't you let yourself be" -- ended with a Doors-ish psych-rock freakout. In keeping with the Flower Power vibe, Andrews announced at one point that it was Bob Weir's birthday, and looking around the stage, he proceeded to make what Rochinski deemed his first-ever onstage joke: "Weir is he?" The Grateful Dead founder never turned up, but Quilt hardly needs a fourth member. On standouts like 'Cowboys In the Void' -- a kind of warped, chilled-out, in all likelihood de-politicized take on CSNY's "Ohio" -- they looked forward and back without straining their necks, and that's not easily done.
Prior to Quilt's set, the Midnight Hollow served up a solid 40 minutes of moody, spaced-out jams, incorporating U2 grandeur, Radiohead dread and even hints of Southern Rock. Singer Spencer Draeger, who started the band in his native San Francisco, is a rock star in the classic sense, what with his mega-skinny jeans and floppy hair flung over his right eye just so. On highlight 'Lonely in Paradise,' he sang about "politicians on TV" over an Edge-y guitar lick perfect for such Bono-esque pontificating. They wrapped it up before 9, so maybe Dreager was able to catch the presidential debate.
Earlier in the evening, Seattle's Young Evils stopped by the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, where they dispensed with some hooky pop-punk laced with just a touch of Kills-grade grit and X-style souped-up Americana. Back in August, Diffuser.fm gave away 'Dead Animals' as a free mp3 download, and hearing the tune live on Tuesday made us all the more the willing to give our endorsement.