CMJ Report #6: Money Mark's Experimentation Hits Bull's Eye

Buffalo Daughter, Ben Lee and Bis share billing at Saturday night CMJ showcase.

(Editor's Note: SonicNet Music News had four correspondents covering last

week's CMJ Music Marathon, MusicFest and FilmFest in New York City. This 18th edition

of the College Music Journal-sponsored conference -- the largest annual

gathering of music-industry professionals, enthusiasts, musicians and film buffs in North

America -- kicked off Wednesday and ran through Saturday. It included film screenings,

performances by more than 1,000 bands, and 50-plus panels on various topics, drawing

thousands of attendees. The conference tradition of showcasing up-and-coming acts

and exploring new musical frontiers has earned it a reputation as one of the best

predictors of what's to come in music, evidenced by such past CMJ "unknowns" as

Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Marilyn Manson. CMJ's opening-night party

Wednesday showcased top turntablists and electronica acts as a tribute to the growing

influence of DJ culture.)

Contributing Editor Dakota Smith reports:

NEW YORK -- Sonic innovation was the order of the night Saturday at Irving

Plaza here, where Grand Royal Records hosted Money Mark, Buffalo Daughter, Ben Lee

and Bis.

In keeping with the edge-bending thrust of the CMJ music festival as a whole, this show

-- which unfolded before a sold-out crowd -- did more than its part to uphold the

conference's exploratory tradition.

The Beastie Boys' moonlighting keyboardist Money Mark (born Mark Ramos Nishita)

took the stage early in the night with an eclectic collage of '70s soul, '80s scratches and

kazoo-inspired originality.

A whir of chirping electronica and keyboards marked his song "Insects Are All Around

Us," from his 1996 release, Mark's Keyboard Repair.

"I couldn't bring my grand piano, so I just have this Casio," he joked from behind his

trademark dark glasses and red ski-hat.

In his casual style, Mark plunged deeper into the Keyboard Repair album, with the

tracks "Cry" and the soulful, bluesy "Sometimes You Got Make It Alone."

He turned playfully indulgent at points: In the song "Tomorrow Is Like Today," from his

latest release, Push the Button, Mark quoted Deep Purple's '70s heavy-rock

classic "Smoke On The Water."

He also played a trumpet with a balloon, by letting the air from the deflating balloon flow

into the instrument's mouthpiece.

"I guarantee you won't see this anywhere else," Mark said of his technique. "And if you

do, they're copying me."

The Beastie Boy was followed by Buffalo Daughter, the Japanese techno-pop act

currently joining him on a tour of the United States and Canada. Wearing their customary

fluorescent Day-Glo T-shirts emblazoned with the words New Rock -- the title of

their current album on Grand Royal -- Buffalo Daughter opted to forgo vocal stylizing and

instead speed through a noisy instrumental set that mixed funk and electronica.

Amid renditions of "Super Blooper," "What's the Trouble With My Silver Turkey" and

"New Rock" (RealAudio excerpt),

many in the audience seemed hypnotized by the sound. Few in the crowd danced at all.

"Buffalo Daughter are incredible," Beastie Boy Mike D said as he made a beeline for the

backstage area to hang out with the Grand Royal acts. "And I just caught Money's

stripped-down set."

Next up was Australian indie-rock singer/songwriter Ben Lee, who, dressed in white

pants and shirt, bore more than a passing resemblance to a young, lanky Pete

Townshend. The former member of the cult-act Noise Addict tore off renditions of

"Sprawl," from his 1995 debut solo disc, Grandpaw Would; "Perfect World," by

alt-songstress Liz Phair; and his own "How to Survive a Broken Heart," from the hit

film-comedy soundtrack There's Something About Mary.

Adding in some new songs, including the pop-inspired "Ship My Body Home," off his

upcoming album, Breathing Tornadoes, scheduled for release in the United States

on Feb. 9, Lee had the crowd charmed.

"You like it electric, then," Lee said, speaking in his Australian twang to the audience

between songs. Watching from the sidelines with a huge grin was his girlfriend, actress

Claire Danes.

Another young actor, Liev Schreiber ("Daytrippers," the upcoming "A Walk on the

Moon"), also was partial to Lee's set.

"It's been a long time since artists considered poetry in music. It's inspiring to hear Lee's

lyrics," Schreiber said.

Joining the crowd in the balcony, Lee and Danes stood with their arms linked to watch

the Scottish trio Bis whip the audience into a dancing mood. Laying on plenty of

'80s-style synthesized pop, Bis showcased such songs as "School Disco," from their

1996 This Is Teen-C Power! EP; "Dinosaur Germs," from 1997's New

Transistor Heroes; and new material from their upcoming album, due out in March.

"This is the most people we've played in front of in America," lead singer Manda Rin

announced.

"I liked their new stuff," said Bis fan Vini Iubatti, 18, who traveled from New Castle, Del., to

catch the show. "It had more beats and power; it wasn't as bubblegum-pop as Teen-

C was."

But Iubatti's friends, Sarah Cohen, 18, and Sarah Sanchez, 19, were partial to Lee's

charismatic performance.

"He has such stage presence; I was totally blown away," sighed Sanchez, who looked

more than a bit smitten.