NEW YORK Office workers may have been sent home early Thursday as Hurricane Floyd approached the city, but hell or, literally, high water weren't enough to stop the bands gathered here for the CMJ Music Marathon.
Some had to make do, though. The trio Distortion Felix, who played at the venerable punk club CBGB on Thursday night, were reduced for the night to a single member playing a wall of said distortion. A few blocks north, at the Continental, New York horror-ska act the Independents were forced to reposition their flashpots to keep them from being drowned by the water pouring through the roof over the stage.
The second night of the four-day festival, which has brought some 1,000 bands to the city, featured such major acts as the Chemical Brothers, Tricky and exUrge Overkill frontman Nash Kato, along with scores of up-and-coming bands.
The Chemical Brothers' guests for the night didn't have to fight the hurricane: Madonna, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and New Order's Bernard Sumner showed up as sampled voices from the duo's stack of electronic equipment.
Chemical Brothers Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons burst onto the stage of the Hammerstein Ballroom under the glow of indigo and white spotlights with the speaker stacks pulsing a low C note and a sampled lounge singer crooning the words to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." Rowlands thrust his hands in the air as the crooner sang, "Turn off your minds, relax and float downstream."
Two screens above the speakers at the left and right sides of the stage repeatedly flashed the words "Hey Boy Hey Girl" as the vocals from the track of the same name (RealAudio excerpt) began. The crowd went bonkers when the beat kicked in. The ballroom floor shook.
During "Music: Response," another track from Surrender (1999),
one fan thrust what remained of a turned-out, twisted umbrella high in the air, as if to say not even a hurricane can stop this show.
The floor shook again for the Eurodisco beats of "Out of Control," for which Rowlands and Simons mixed in not only the studio track's vocals by Sumner and Gillespie, but also a single-word sample of Madonna's "Erotica."
"The quality of the sound ... the sonic quality of the beat ... it's what every electronic musician dreams of," said Eddie Sullivan, a D.J. from East Setauket, N.Y.
Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher's sampled vocals in "Setting Sun" disappeared into swirls of sonics that spun about the ballroom's quadraphonic public-address system. On "Block Rocking Beats," the Brothers deployed blinding, pulsing white floodlights and dropped in an ear-splitting throbbing bass note toward the end.
At the Bowery Ballroom, to the east of CBGB, Tricky made sure no one in the audience got a good look at his face. The trip-hop mystery man, known for his work with Massive Attack and solo albums that combine hip-hop and art-rock, stood profile or with his back to the audience as a singer, Martina, graced the audience with her voice. When Tricky sang or, rather, croaked and bellowed he made sure to hide his face with the microphone. The stage lights never brightened above dark blue or dark red.
The mystery added to the music, which evoked images of Hitchcock films and all else dark and sinister. "Overcome" (RealAudio excerpt), from Maxinquaye (1995), could substitute for the theme to "Unsolved Mysteries"; it also has a thick groove that caused festival-goers to sway, close their eyes and soak in the waves. Tricky said nothing more than "Thank you very, very, very much" to the audience.
Former Urge Overkill singer/guitarist Nash Kato played a hard-rocking late-night set at Wetlands that included a truncated cover of the Doobie Brothers' 1976 hit "Takin' It to the Streets." Backed by a tight four-piece band, Kato also touched on the Urge Overkill catalog, digging up the 1995 track "Monopoly." His solo material was not a major departure from his former band's music; it was driven by upbeat melodies and big guitar riffs, albeit with the addition of vintage keyboard sounds.
Not every band made it through the rain. C-Average, the Olympia, Wash., duo who've been joined by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder several times this year, didn't make it to their gig at CB's Basement, nor did singer Mary Lou Lord. Squalling, shouting feedback kings Caustic Resin made the trip to the main room at CBGB, if only to play to a thin, waterlogged audience.
Downstairs at CBGB, the five-piece Lies a disheveled male singer
and four female musicians trafficked in an atonal, off-beat punk
sound, while the three-piece Aberdeen Lizards did their best upstairs to
keep grunge alive with a singer whose vocals and guitar style were eerily
similar to those of late Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain.
Speaking of Cobain, the influential tidal wave of grunge was still washing ashore here a decade after the sound first broke. At S.O.B.'s, Verbena guitarist/singer Scott Bondy jokingly introduced his drummer as ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell in a nod to Verbena's well-deserved comparisons to Nirvana's dynamic, explosive punk sound.
The group that followed Verbena to S.O.B.'s stage seemed to have melded the catharsis of Nirvana with the naked emotion and operatic style of Radiohead. English three-piece band Muse played a dramatic set of soaring, dynamic mini rock operas such as "Sunburn" and "Muscle Museum" (RealAudio excerpt), anchored by singer Matthew Bellamy's diva-like vocals and slashing guitar work.