Throughout CMJ 2015, Meredith Graves — Honor Press founder, Perfect Pussy frontwoman, Brooklyn resident — will be keeping track of her adventures here. As a showcase presenter, performer, and music fan, she’ll be running around Manhattan and Brooklyn, singing new songs, watching new friends, and taking notes in between. Stay tuned for more.
By the time your thought is halfway out your mouth, you already feel like an asshole. Whoever you’re talking to works in finance or “creates content” or makes microbrewed, gluten-free, fair trade rat milk cheese in Epcot Williamsburg, and they know that you get flown around the world to play unlistenably bad hardcore for a living. Yet here you are, explaining in detail that festivals are just the worst. It must be so painful to drink free beer, hug teenagers, and throw yourself around on stage like you’re being electrocuted. We look good in our grief.
But festivals, especially city-wide festivals, are a colossal fucking nuisance. If you’re from out of town, your band is competing with every other band in the known universe for a floor to sleep on, but your drummer is allergic to cats and there’s not enough room, so two of your bandmates are crashing with a distant relative up in Harlem while the rest of you are sharing one foldout couch in Bushwick. One of them loses their phone; the other their wallet. Load-in, which happens while you’re double-parked in front of a taxi stand at rush hour, is seven hours before your set. Two-thirds of your band is hung over to the point of hallucinating. Someone loses their wristband and has to be rescued from the front of the venue every time they go out to smoke. You piss off your bass player because you have a short temper and she stops making eye contact with you for several hours, leading you to question whether or not you’ve shamed your parents and all their hard work in your journey to adulthood. The soundguy is doing fourteen shows this week and does not care if your precious monitors are set to your liking. You sound weird. You feel weird. There are a lot of cameras and people taking notes, trying to read the veins popping out of your neck like tea leaves.
And if it hasn’t already been made clear, you are not allowed to complain about any of this, because we have the best job in the world. If you don’t cherish every single uncomfortable car ride straddling a bass head with a bag of cassettes on your lap, or every time an interviewer asks you a question better suited for Google, then you should quit and go do literally anything else with your life.
One thing that’s hard to make peace with is sharing a bill with bands exponentially better and more qualified than you are to do the damn job. That’s what we encountered at Santos Party House last night for the PopGun/NME showcase. Playing at 12:15 a.m. following Downtown Boys, Shopping, and Protomartyr doesn’t feel all that great, but again, I’m just riotously insecure, and there’s no crying in baseball.
Bands these days fall into two distinct categories: The Worst, and The Best. The Worst, which we were also treated to last night, usually take the form of White Male Mediocrity. The level of rocking out done by D-level guitar players, their commitment to their posture and tone and guitar faces, nasally compromising every note when they serenade you with basic pseudo-psych lyrics, is remarkable. Close your eyes and drift away on a vision of the dressing room at Urban Outfitters. I see red when I think about how many of my friends have been passed up for gigs on the basis of someone preferring to pay their boys in Mayonnaise Clan for the twelfth time. May we all one day experience the level of self-confidence held by these mediocre young white male artists. You all really think you’re great, which you are as long as you live in a world where “Real Estate” is a genre.
Then, of course, there are The Best Bands. Shopping is The Best Band. They’re also The Most British Band, sounding at times like the Slits, Wire, X-Ray Spex, or Gang of Four. Each instrument is played in a manner both elegant and sparse, which makes for nuanced, collaged melodies designed to get stuck in your head. These are three phenomenally talented people: They balance disparate and at times atonal instrumentation with beautiful, crisp vocal lines, and they can all sing. Few bands strike me as being in the same league as Pleasure Leftists, and in fact, Shopping might be the first.
Then there’s my band, which is definitely a band, a music band, that exists and plays music — you know, band stuff for bands. I was feeling friendly last night. I had a belly full of fire and vegan dim sum, so I talked much more between songs than I usually do, about friendship and loneliness and why I’d rather stage a coup than allow a bunch of old white congressmen with jowls that hang like a basset hound’s ballsack to defund Planned Parenthood. I don’t really drink much at shows any more because I’m old and my mom is embarrassed enough, so I have to get my kicks somehow. It takes the edge off things to run your mouth a little.
Playing shows without Shaun, our keyboard player, is funny. It’s easier to hear my vocals. I told my bandmates that I was going to tell the audience Shaun had died, but they didn’t think that was OK, so I said I’d tell everyone that we fired him, and then I didn’t do that, either. I also didn’t FaceTime him from the stage. This is fine — we have two more opportunities to do that, as he won’t be playing with us at (shameless plug) the AdHoc Car Wash on Saturday afternoon or the Silent Barn on Saturday night, either.
Come see my band in between the other two hundred bands you’d rather see. We have a new song. It’s about miscarriage. Don’t you dare say a word about the bags under my eyes. CMJ is a hoot. You won’t hear me complaining.