CMJ Weekend: Acid Baby Jesus, Vockah Redu, Jacuzzi Boys, And Chelsea Wolfe Exist On The Fringes


In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.

This weekend, Debbie and I continued our Homeric quest to find bands over which to get excited. In an effort to broaden our search, we decided to look a little bit outside of CMJ’s prescribed avenues. For every hit, there were about five misses, and we often managed to arrive or leave at precisely the wrong moment. Nevertheless, through sheer persistence, we made out all right.

Friday night, we hit up Death By Audio for an unofficial party put on by Hardly Art and WUSB. Following a lackluster performance from a bored-looking Colleen Green (who, to be fair, is better on her album), Acid Baby Jesus cranked the energy in the room to a fever pitch. Often pegged as Athens, Greece’s answer to the Black Lips, the guys of ABJ mix blues, psych, and punk, but not in equal measures. Their ghoulish cries echoed the Misfits, while singer Noda’s fast and harsh delivery sounded vaguely MacKaye-ish at times, and aggressively un-P.C. lyrics like “you’re gonna get a kick in the cunt!” seemed passed down straight from G.G. Allin. When Noda lit some American currency on fire and threw it into the crowd, it read simultaneously as a timeless act of youthful rebellion and a timely nod to the upheavals currently shaking their country and, to a lesser degree, ours.

Later, we stopped by Bushwick’s El Dorado, where Vockah Redu was slated to perform at that awkward hour when most concertgoers have gone home to bed but the afterhours crowd has yet to filter in. We got a chance to hang out backstage with Vockah and his crew a bit beforehand, and Debbie (the more psychically sensitive of this duo) was bowled over by Vockah’s powerful presence after we all joined hands in a pre-show prayer circle. The sparseness of the audience fazed him not; Vockah walked out wearing an Ed Hardy robe and a bandana around his face with a lit stick of incense hanging out of it, then sang in a lilting voice, “This is Vockah’s show, I’m gonna take you to another world, so don’t be sad no more.”

And we weren’t! Bolstered by whatever energies enable one to enjoy staying out past 4 a.m., the crowd booty-danced and threw up their hands as Vockah stripped down to only his knee-length dreads, black karate pants, Yankees cap, and leather cuffs with his name written on them in studs. He ran around, gyrated, and hung from the pipes protruding from the ceiling, while burlesque artist Heather Loop did some truly amazing things with her ass. (Is it rare to be able to twirl tassels with your butt, or am I just incredibly sheltered?) Peppered with call-and-response, Vockah’s flow was lively and effeminate, but don’t call him New Orleans sissy bounce. “I’m not officially with sissy bounce, so if you came here looking for sissy bounce, ya ain’t gettin’ it!” he proclaimed, then chanted “pop rock neo vock” repeatedly. It sometimes bothers me when musicians arbitrarily claim to be a genre all their own, but when you sample Jamie Foxx, Xzibit and Papa Roach in one set, you’ve earned the right.

Saturday we attended the Panache Booking/Bruise Cruise party at Public Assembly, another unofficial showcase. A three-piece hailing from Miami, Florida, the Jacuzzi Boys seem bent on distinguishing themselves from the rest of the neo-garage scene by being as silly as possible. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt, acid-washed jeans, and what can only be described as a mom haircut, frontman Gabriel Alcala yelped “thank you so much!” each time the crowd cheered, at one point adding, “I love you so much I’m gonna kill you!” He introduced each song in the same excited, childlike voice; examples included “This next song is for girls… and fishes!” and “Does anybody here like Cuban food? This next song is called…’Cuban Food!'” Their bouncy, surf-tinged rock caused the crowd to jump around violently; I don’t think I’ve ever seen Public Assembly’s back room so full.

Craving an antidote to all that Miami sun, we made our last stop 285 Kent, where Impose had collaborated with Pendu Sound on a rather Goth (but thankfully not witch house) lineup. Chelsea Wolfe, backed by three black-clad gentlemen, entranced the room with her dark and lovely “doom-folk.” Although some parts were more evocative than others, the music transmitted a pervasive sense of longing, and Wolfe was riveting as she swayed back and forth as if performing some sacred rite, pausing only once to introduce herself in a barely audible quaver. Stark, booming drums, ringing minor chords, minimal synths and Wolfe’s mournful soprano all built to a terrifying crescendo on the final song, during which the keyboard player pounded on his instrument like Nick Cave at his angriest. For at least a few sore and cranky onlookers, it was a moment approaching transcendence.

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