I spend closing night at CMJ in the cozy confines of Union Hall's basement. I can't really see shows there without thinking of time (over three years ago, now) when we somehow managed to squash Secret Society into that space. Good times. Anyway, Saturday was kind of an unofficial roots/folk-rock night there, which suited me fine.
La Strada were in mid-set when I arrived. As you can see, they've got kind of a postmodern Williamsburg troubadour vibe going on, with strings and accordion added to the usual guitar-bass-drums setup -- in fact their MySpace page talks about "the romance of old-world instrumentation through new world amplification." The songwriting, too, inclines more heavily towards the current indie scene, with only occasional Balkanisms or nods to pre-WWII Paris cabarets -- though I must admit, those explicitly retro, "lost-in-time" gestures were among the most interesting parts of the set.
On behalf on broke-ass bloggers like myself who must rely on lowly consumer point-and-shoots instead of DSLRs with serious glass, I'd like to thank Mia Riddle & Her Band for bringing their own string of lighting. (See how pretty Union Hall's tin ceiling looks?) Mia & co. have that windswept, folksy-but-with-mallet-percussion-and-a-Nord sound that's engendered comparisons to Neko Case and Cat Power. I don't know that her pipes are quite in that league, but she's a charismatic, engaging singer and her band plays really well together. Her blog is fun, too -- I love the double-sided "Nailed It - Hosed It" sign (surely this means her producer is Canadian).
The Loom was the band I came to see -- my friend Lis Rubard, who can often be found on Pulse projects, plays horn and trumpet in the group. They were surely one of the hardest-working bands at CMJ, playing six shows in four days, including the Brooklyn Vegan loft party on Friday night. This was the last of the six, and their final show before heading into the studio. Despite the presence of Lis's plaintive horn lines (this is a great sound, by the way -- more indie rock groups should use horn), The Loom was the most deliberately rustic-sounding of Saturday's bands. John Fanning's voice is gruff and plain in that pre-Dylan folk style, and makes for a dramatic contrast to Sydney Price's sweet, airy sound -- though like the Arcade Fire's Régine Chassagne, Sydney had her own personal floor tom, on which she launched a thunderous assault whenever she wasn't otherwise engaged.
Pete and J were not in the CMJ book, but I ran into Jill from Feministe who knows the dudes in this band. She convinced me to stay and I'm glad I did. The band delivers straight-up sixties Americana-drenched pop-rock: jangly guitars, good-time shuffle beats, sugar-sweet three-part vocal harmonies, and shamelessly direct hooks. Luckily, they do all this very well, with a hint of taking-the-piss playfulness that never crosses over into smug posturing.