BTR's CMJ Showcase at the Grand Victory

By Zachary Schepis

Singer-guitarist Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers at BTR’s CMJ showcase at the Grand Victory in Brooklyn, NY on Saturday night. Photo by Jess Goulart.

It’s been a long week of music during CMJ 2013 here in New York City, and with everything winding down BreakThru Radio gave the festivities one final hurrah, hosting a night of spirited performances at the Grand Victory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Settling into the evening following a relentless slew of punk rock acts hosted earlier in the day, the venue felt warm and worn in. Friends and musicians slowly arrived, exchanging familiar greetings and sharing stories of the past week’s escapades. The Grand Victory was the perfect spot to celebrate such a musical victory, with an atmosphere instantly welcoming and intimate – a place where audience and band members became one in true CMJ fashion.

The Meaning of Life got the evening’s wheel turning, with siren wail guitars and slick bass cutting through the growing murmur of the room. Fans left their barstools and gathered round to hear lead singer Marta DeLeon lend her artful soprano to the surreal, with songs about carnivorous dates gone awry and far-gone psychedelic wanderings. The challenging vocality and measured drumming built simultaneously, shimmering and exploding into choruses that sounded like a pop child between Robert Smith and the Mary Chain.

People continued to fill in as the trio’s last notes rang out. Leaning against the outside of Grand Victory just as a light rain began to fall, The Meaning of Life shared some insight into the meaning of their genesis.

“He’s been playing for 25 years,” DeLeon explains while nudging her drummer. “He comes from a musical family. My parents were tone deaf. The two of us met accidentally at a show… a show just like this,” she adds with a smile.

More and more friends arrived as the post-punk trio Eula tore into the audience like a pane of broken glass. Jagged chords, frenzied bass thumps, and start/stop rhythms came riding in on waves of feedback, and before long, the crowd was moving. Blonde bombshell Alyse Lamb commanded all attention, alternating between gentle lulls and full-blooded shrieks effortlessly in the course of a single song. She was a bundle of energy throughout, amping her band mates up and drawing smiles from the crowd as her bottle-neck slide guitar roared with distortion.

“This might be our third show in a run, but it’s the same,” Lamb tells BTR as she packs away her instrument, quickly making way for the next band. “You come in with no expectations, open to whatever. And it’s all around great vibes. You play your ass off – give it your all and it will come back to you. It always does.”

While Eula most certainly played their asses off, Philly-bred Bleeding Rainbow blew theirs off with dynamite. Grand Victory brimmed with a full house, and even the large shifting crowd of bodies couldn’t dampen the cacophony of noise coming from the stage. They were the loudest band yet, an onslaught of heavy hitting strings and cries fading into a feedback that seemed to snarl with life of its own. But catchy choruses kept the audience swaying, with melodies springing out of the fuzz-melt like rainbows.

The end of their set elapsed into complete sonic destruction. Guitarist Rob Garcia and bassist Sarah Everton mashed the necks of their instruments together, all the while lead guitarist Al Creedon kicked drums across the stage in the heat of melodic warfare. Bleeding Rainbow really are troopers – especially considering the fragile nature of their lead guitarist.

“We were playing a show in Texas a week ago, and I was dehydrated,” Creedon tells BTR. “I got dizzy in the bathroom, passed out, and broke the urinal with my head. Woke up to find out my skull was fractured. Doc told me rest for eight weeks; no playing. But here I am only four weeks later,” he grins. “No rest.”

Hardly any time seemed to pass before all of us jumped into the bathtub with Heliotropes, a badass, all-girl stoner rock band hailing from good ole Brooklyn.

“We’re very happy you guys are as passionate about bathing as we are,” said Jessica Numsuwankijkul after finishing a song inspired by a dream of taking a bath with Elijah Wood. And the former hobbit would be one lucky bather. Heliotropes gracefully emanated sexy between Jessica’s bluesy moaning guitar solos and Amber Myers vivacious tambourine playing and vocals.

That’s right, psych-rock tambourine.

By the end of the night the audience and musicians were no longer separate entities. Guitar players bought one another beers and fans took up conversations with them like long time lost friends greeting one another after time apart.

“It’s so down to earth here,” says Heliotropes bassist Nya Abudu. “What more could you ask for, really.”
All crowded around the small stage to admire the final performance of the night. Eternal Summers rocked the joint hard in fitting closure to an evening of amazing music. Scathing post-punk gave way to dream-pop at the drop of a hat, which seemed like a good summation of the balance between heavy and soft explored throughout the night.

“Look outside, it’s already quite late,” sang Nicole Yun as the last of the audience cheered on. “We’ve got a million ways to go.” As the evening showed all who were present, it doesn’t matter which way to go: the music makes it a choice we can take with one another.

Cheers to another amazing year at CMJ.