Live Review

CMJ Green Owl Showcase, (Le) Poisson Rouge, NY

The very best of what is to be gleaned from a global culture.

The Green Owl CMJ Showcase at (Le) Poisson Rouge is a kaleidoscopic amalgamation of different cultures and musical genres. The bands at hand hail from such disparate places as DIY houses in West Philadelphia to London, the bars of New York to Malawi. At times the music is a blend of influences, with many of the musicians usurping sounds from locales far from their native homes. At other times, influences are dashed in favor of crashing different types of music directly into each other, the smoldering wreckage illustrating just how similar they are from the start.

Violins play first, opening the showcase with a request to turn the lights down on the stage. The occasional sixties pop harmonies floats over a classic grunge-era distortion as the band settle into a steady plateau of songs. It could be their sound engineer, or the venue’s acoustics, but the Violins’ particular brand of shoegaze and wistful psychedelia lacks some of the nuance of their contemporaries. Though much of their set consists of mid-tempo constructions, they end with their most upbeat song of the night, something your parents would refer to as “a toe-tapper.”

Grandchildren follow, injecting fresh energy into (Le) Poisson Rouge. A blend of electronic samples, electric, and acoustic instruments, these musicians have been known to swap instruments mid-set like they are at a mid-seventies key party. They layer instruments and rhythms to create a sound culled from modern indie-rock and the funk of Fela Kuti.

Taking to the stage with the demand that everyone dances, Ninjasonic break into a cover of Mark Morrison’s ‘Return of the Mack’. The crowd dutifully comply, grinning as they recognize the nineties pop remix. The group acknowledge their allegiannce to multiple flavors of music with the statement, “we love girls, f***ing girls, Morrisey, and Devo,” and beats torn from hip hop and punk alike. The emcees and DJ end their show with another indulgently catch cover, Matt and Kim’s ‘Daylight’.

The show’s tone drops noticeably when Theophilus takes the stage. With his production the beats grow sleeker, and begin to owe more homage to new wave than mainstream hip-hop, providing the emcee the opportunity to drift from rapping to song at will. At times Theophilus rhymes over recordings of the same lyrics, an effect that adds little to his show. The pair are at their best when the beats are tight and Theophilus focuses on his flow. His remix of the Very Best’s ‘Julia’ (bittersweet as Esau Mwamwaya is unable to make his scheduled appearance), was not to be missed.

Around two in the morning half the audience has left, and Clipse are just beginning their show. Critically lauded, the brothers Malice and Pusha T unleash their bombast, undiminished by the less than full house. Spitting lyrics at top volume occasionally obfuscates their rhyme schemes, leaving the beats to punctuate the ends of sentences and verses alike. Yet, the rhythm of their voices matches the swagger of their beats.

Musically, The Green Owl Showcase illustrates the very best of what is to be gleaned from a global culture. With the goal of creating music that is sustainable, both environmentally and economically, the label seems well on its way to finding a sustainable sound. A cross cultural, cross genre, pollination is something to be enjoyed, not feared.

Tags: Violens, Features

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