Night three of CMJ went by in a blur. I somehow managed to make an appearance at no less than four music venues: Mercury Lounge, Le Poisson Rouge, Bowery Ballroom, and the Suffolk and all without an official CMJ badge! (Thanks, Bob Boilen.) The sheer randomness of the evening was delightful. This is what a music festival should be like–flitting madly in between venues when the mood strikes, making new contacts, and running into people you haven’t seen in a while.
That said, I have to say that my favorite act of the night also happened to be the first one I saw–Patrick Watson. In many ways, Patrick Watson reminds me of sparser Andrew Bird–his music is beautifully orchestrated with a piano (which they literally wheeled through the audience and onto the stage), interesting percussion parts, and often a barrage of tubas, trumpets, trombones, bass, violins, guitars, bass, pianos, and guitars. His show last night, however, was more sparse.
Check out this video from NPR Music + WNYC to get an idea of Patrick Watson’s style. It’s pretty long, but the first song, “Beijing” from his recent album Wooden Arms is one of the best.
I have to admit though, Patrick Watson was not what I expected. The Mercury Lounge had the lights down low. I don’t know if it was the lighting or Watson’s demeanor, but the show was much edgier and more rock-oriented than I had thought it would be from listening to the album. If this was Andrew Bird, it was Andrew Bird with a kick.
One of the highlights of the performance was the song “Traveling Salesman.” The melody was creepily upbeat and carnivalesque, and Watson sang through a Megaphone, which distorted his voice in strangely gorgeous ways and made the vocals sound like a mesmerizing stream of propaganda. The track “Man Like You,” which I first heard in the great little French film C’est pas moi je le jure! was also fantastic. Watson’s falsetto in the song reminds me a bit of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
Then, something strange happened. A man started walking through the audience carrying what appeared to be one of those lamps with multiple heads, only in addition to being a source of light, these heads were also PA systems of some kind. Basically, it was a tree of megaphones coming out of a rucksack. I almost got hit in the head with it as it made its way to the stage. For the dramatic finale to his set, Watson then strapped on the contraption and proceeded to walk off the stage to the center of the floor, and there, surrounded by CMJ-goers and accompanied by a tambourine and a drum, he sang through this contraption, which made for quite a memorable performance.
Tonday – day four – should be fairly eventful. I’ll be sure to report back when it’s all over…