One strange music-fest phenomenon is encountering buzz acts whose live sets are so totally different than what their recordings imply—in this case, it’s Japanese blip-folk wunderkind Shugo Tokumaru. Performing second on a typically CMJ five-band shooting gallery (a party for Microsoft’s Zune—huh?!), the 28-year Tokyo-based Tokumaru took to the Bowery Ballroom stage with an acoustic guitar and a three-piece combo. Where Exit suggests a meticulous electro-organic sound collager in the spirit of Cornelius, Tokumaru’s virtuosic finger-picked arrangements suggested a lighter hippie-prog bent, almost like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Double huh?!
Barefoot, occasionally on a stool, and looking approximately 12, Tokumaru played in front of Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos backdrop, flanked by multi-instrumentalists—one dude on accordion/glockenspiel, one on banjo/lap steel/toy piano/piccolo. Offering only a diminutive “thank you,” Tokomaru powered through his evening turn for the badges (there’d been a Cake Shop gig earlier in the day), who cheered dutifully for blog-single “Green Rain.” Overall, Tokumaru’s work was more chamber folk than anything else: music that required far more quiet than the chatty CMJ crowd could allow, their voices invading Tokumaru’s hushed spaces like lines of insistent, microscopic text. But, hey, at least there was free stuff. Ooooh, Zune the magazine, issue one! — Jesse Jarnow