By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The real nonstop action kicked off with Neko Case once again proving she belongs both at CMJ and on CMT. Promoting an upcoming studio album and recent live one, she left me wishing for a bit more from the older catalog, though she did include "Hex," "Favorite," and "If You Knew." The set felt nicely laid-back, if sometimes thrown together.
Liz Tormes, a Lower East Side newcomer from Nashville, lit up the Knit the next night, setting refreshingly unconfessional lyrics like "I don't want to live forever, but I never want to die" to an unmatched delivery that can make "dear" sound like a curse.
The Society for Ethical Culture, a former church with pews, was a great fit for Dar Williams. She opened with Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," and from there her full band's flourishes and nuances highlighted her playful songwriting, so the silliness of tunes like "The Babysitter's Here" never got tiring. Who she kept reminding me of, oddly, was Jonathan Richman.
Which brings us, love her or hate her, to Aimee Mann, who sometimes seemed to wonder whether many were there just 'cause the show was free, but had fun regardless, asking the crowd to make paper airplanes out of requests, rather than shout them all at once. No "Voices Carry"; plenty of The Forgotten Arm.
Single words to sum them up: Toshi, soul; Neko, sassy; Liz, sultry; Dar, social; Aimee, sure.