Gay Dad, Black Box Recorder, Dot Allison Introduce Themselves To U.S.

They were among notable new bands seeking attention at CMJ Music Marathon.

NEW YORK — Gay Dad's U.S. debut Friday at the Bowery Ballroom

didn't quite go as planned.

Plagued by a faulty keyboard and delayed nearly an hour by a Foo Fighters

show booked at the same club earlier that night, the flashy, trashy

British five-piece, whose debut, Leisure Noise, will be released

Tuesday (Sept. 21), muddled through at half-speed, according to singer

Cliff Jones.

"Psychologically, that was one of our worst gigs ever," drummer Nicholas

"Baz" Crowe said Saturday morning. "It's like doing an interview with a

minidisc player that doesn't work, one crayon and a napkin," Jones, a

former rock journalist added.

Things went more smoothly for other up-and-coming bands trying to impress

the 10,000 people from all facets of the record industry who were here

for the four-day CMJ Music Marathon, which ended Saturday. Many of the

acts were making their U.S. debuts.

The festival's opening party, on Wednesday, featured the U.S. debut of

Femi Kuti, son of late Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti. He earned a

two-minute-long ovation after he and his 12-piece band played a 70-minute

set that put an African twist on all manner of American funk and jazz.

"Femi Kuti's bringing a new beat, and that beat is one of the best there

is out there," said Brooklyn resident Benjamin Kelly, who produces a

world-music Internet radio show.

At the Mercury Lounge on Thursday, the English trio Black Box Recorder

played a chilly set of ambient songs from their first album, England

Made Me, in what was one of their first U.S. appearances.

Led by enigmatic diva Sarah Nixey and Luke Haines — who was the

mastermind of the British rock band the Auteurs — Black Box Recorder

played ethereal but disturbing songs. In "England Made Me" (RealAudio

excerpt), Nixey sang about stuffing bodies in trunks while Haines

supplied steely electric-guitar accompaniment and former Jesus and Mary

Chain guitarist John Moore added bassy vocals and jazzy counterpoint on

acoustic guitar.

Haines said humor is at the root of the album, which combines happy-sounding

tunes with demented tales of an abused, psychologically damaged murderer.

The character, played by Nixey, begins life on the album by surviving a

plane crash — thus the band's name. But Haines said not all is dark

in their world.

"Maybe we've sullied ourselves with a dark name," he said jokingly.

"We're considering shortening it to BBR," Moore said.

Gay Dad weren't completely sullied by circumstances Friday. Taking to

the Bowery Ballroom stage following a set of Smashing Pumpkins–style

prog rock from Englishmen Dark Star — also making their U.S. debut

— Gay Dad appeared to rise above the scheduling problems with a

raucous half-hour set during which bottle-blond Jones pouted, strutted,

kicked and stomped across the stage like a latter-day David Lee Roth.

Equal parts Cheap Trick power pop and Broadway-style rock show, the set

touched upon the driving mini guitar operas "Dimstar" and the band's

debut single, the glammy "To Earth With Love" (RealAudio

excerpt), a smash in the UK earlier this year.

Scottish techno chanteuse Dot Allison — former singer of the band

One Dove — made her U.S. debut Saturday night at the Fez, a velvety

175-capacity room underneath the Time Café in Greenwich Village.

Singing ethereal, ambient rock songs from her recently released solo

debut, Afterglow, the pale, bleached blonde moved like a ghostly

siren as she sang swirling ragas ("I Want to Feel the Chill"),

trip-hop-style pop songs ("Did I Imagine You?") and closed her short set

with the spectral ballad "Tomorrow Never Comes."

Across town at the Westbeth Theater Center, the Breakbeat Era, a

collaboration between drum & bass DJs Roni Size and DJ Die and singer

Leonie Laws, seemed to introduce a new concept to U.S. soil —

scattershot drum & bass music with live instrumentation and chanteuse

singing.

Size and Die stepped aside and let Laws play the star. Dancing wildly,

her arms flailing, the singer and her backing band led the audience

through such desperate-sounding songs as "Past Life," "Sex Change,"

"Our Disease" and "Control Freak."

The sweaty singer maintained a playful rapport, making devil horns with

her fingers and flashing goofy looks. She was flirtatious as she spoke

to the crowd in a cockney accent. "I gave my all for you on that one,"

she said after singing "Past Life."

Although it was by no means her debut, singer Ronnie Spector of '60s

girl group the Ronettes acted like a young artist eager to impress Friday

night during a high-energy set at a stuffy, narrow art gallery, the

Threadwaxing Space. Providing a perfect symmetry, recently reunited Olympia,

Wash., riot-grrrl trio Bratmobile took the stage before the legendary

singer, providing their own bratty take on tough-girl rock.

"I was here during soundcheck and I was practically crying [when I heard

Spector sing]," Bratmobile singer Allison Wolfe said.

Spector was playing her first New York show in support of She Talks

to Rainbows, a Joey Ramone–produced EP issued in January in the UK

and just released in the U.S. on the punk label Kill Rock Stars. The

56-year-old singer bounded onto the stage in skintight black pants, a

black blouse and fingerless black gloves, punching the air and performing

a half-hour set of Ronettes hits and eclectic covers.

"I love rock 'n' roll," Spector shouted after a whipsaw cover of the

Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby," in which she sang a slightly revised

chorus: "Don't worry, Ronnie, everything's going to turn out right."

Tattooed punk rockers, men and women alike, crushed up against the low

stage. Dressed in spiked chokers, leather jackets and Ramones-inspired

shag haircuts, they shimmied and swiveled their hips to classics such as

"Baby, I Love You," "Walking in the Rain" and Spector's signature hit,

"Be My Baby." The grinning, smoky-voiced singer also performed

girl-group-style covers of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" and

late New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms

Around a Memory."