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CMJ 2012: King Tuff Proves Sketchy Brooklyn Venues Are the Place to Be

King Tuff at Cheap Storage
Chris Kissel

Outside of a February date by the band DIIV, last night’s “John Rambo Unofficial CMJ Party,” featuring Sub Pop signees King Tuff  — a basically new-on-the-scene garage rock band already cherished by everyone — may be the first official show held at a loft warehouse venue called Cheap Storage. It’s the first time we’ve ever passed a doorguy on the way in, but it’s certainly not the first time strange sounds have emanated from those high loft windows, out in the trendy wasteland of L-train Bushwick.

Outside of the doorguy, it’s unclear what’s official about the place. The air is thick with smoke and sweat; it smells like sweat on fire. Furniture and luggage are piled up in the corner behind the beer stand. The venue’s called Cheap Storage because, we’d guess, of a big blue legacy sign on the side of the building that offers “Cheap Storage.” And the patrons are all the neighborhood kids you know, members of local Brooklyn bands and the dudes who hang out outside North Brooklyn tattoo shops.

Royal Baths, who opened, played like the soundtrack to a night of wandering stoned through a Transylvanian castle. Their bass player, a vampiric presence dressed in black lace, sang like Nico from the grave. “This happiness I feel/ Is a switchblade of cold, shining steel,” she sang, looking over the audience. They rode the vacant, busted, haunted feeling of the building, and they were great.

Habibi, a band of girl-group wannabes dressed in jumpsuits, alternately harnessed and battled waves of feedback as they say about dirtbag chicks and covered the Ramones. (Needless to say, we loved them.) Total Slacker, a true band of misfits, rocked back and forth with earnestness, and with an apparent love for straight-up rock. They got the kids moving and set up a perfect vibe for King Tuff to do his thing.

King Tuff’s tunes are basically just foundations for jumping around in a sweaty mass of humanity. He looked out over the crowd and smiled as feet flew into the air. Fans pumped fists, raising different combinations of fingers. Beer sprayed across the room. With each new tune, the warehouse room broke into a fresh roar. Never was an experience more honest and true to itself. Tuff sang, “Keep on, keep on movin’/ Don’t stop, there’s nothing to it.” The crowd did it.

When the band went into ‘Alone and Stoned,’ the single from their new self-titled album, the last few kids idling on the sideline threw themselves into the pit. As the crowd jumped manically and pushed each other back and forth across the floor, it seemed like the dingy warehouse windows behind the stage might fall out of their frames, and the whole sprawling, mostly vacant warehouse building might come crashing down.

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