HIGH NOTES: What Music Is Like on Every Popular Drug

Drug culture and music culture have long overlapped, from the psychedelics at 60s and 70s rock festivals to the MDMA, cocaine, and ketamine in modern nightclubs. People bring drugs to these settings not just to facilitate social interactions but also to appreciate the music on a new level. In fact, 69% of 21 to 29 year olds in a recent Detox study said they need drugs to enjoy music. 

But the way you experience music depends which drug you’re taking, and even when the same drug is involved, effects vary from person to person, song to song, and night to night. Here are just a few ways drugs can affect how you experience music, according to people who have taken them.


For Stephen, 33, wine unlocks music’s hidden meanings. When he wants to gain insight into his life, he’ll drink wine from Caduceus Cellars, the vineyard owned by Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, and put on Tool or another favorite band. It feels like “the universe is trying to communicate” through the music, he explains.

The effects of alcohol on music, though, totally depend on the drink and the genre, he says. “If I’m drinking whiskey and listening to country music, I just want to get feisty.”

Nadia, 36, says alcohol gives her less discriminating music taste. During her teen years, she says, “alcohol made me able to party to shit music.”


As a musician, Cass, 24, usually analyzes the music and lyrics of every song she hears. But when she’s stoned, she can just sit back and appreciate it.

Peter, 28, similarly finds that weed helps him get immersed in a song. “The mood of the music becomes very perceptible and much more apparent,” he says. “It’s easier to feel like you’re in an artist’s specific world.”

Weed also helps Lindsey, 34, get out of her head and into the music. “I fall into this wormhole of getting into the lyrics or the guitar or synth,” she says. But with edibles, she can sometimes feel the music too much — to the point where it actually makes her nauseous. After eating them at a Mykki Blanco concert, she “could feel the bass through the bench.”


Most MDMA users love how it makes music sound; that’s part of the drug’s appeal. “Music becomes more euphoric, much like the drug itself,” says Peter. “I’m not someone who loves dancing, but on MDMA, I love to dance.”

Nadia describes a similar effect. Ecstasy helped her enjoy dancing to house music for the first time, and often, the music serves as a blissful backdrop to self-discovery. “The dancing resembles a trance, and you can travel in your mind, realize things about yourself,” she explains.

David, 28, likes to listen to trance on MDMA because it’s “engineered to be more emotional and molly gives me the feels.” But, he adds, a variety of music will sound like “the best music ever” on MDMA.


In Peter’s experience, coke doesn’t affect music-listening at all. Nadia believes it actually hurts the club scene by making people aggressive if they get addicted. “Cocaine is not helping the music industry,” she says. “A lot of DJs have replaced it with meditation and clean living. This is how the scene can keep on flourishing.”

Coke makes David “a zombie,” but it does make the repetitive sounds of techno and house more enjoyable for him.


For Nadia, music on K can be a journey through space and time. She remembers one particularly otherworldly experience as “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak played at a club. “It felt like that song lasted forever,” she says. “I went to the beach where the video takes place. I felt like I had lived a whole love story, and then I came back at the end of the song. I asked my friend if they had only played the song once. She said yes… so I had a whole other life experience in four minutes.” Nadia finds that people on K look happier on the dance floor than they do on club drugs like MDMA that can have a harsh comedown.

Daniel Saynt, Chief Conspirator at the New Society for Wellness (NSFW) a private members club which organizes the physician-led responsible drug use class “Just Say Know,” likes pairing K with spiritual music, since the combination helps him turn inward and explore his own psyche.


Richard Goldstein, a former rock critic for The Village Voice in the 60s who used to drop acid with The Beach Boys, previously told me that LSD was “a very aesthetic drug” that strips words of their meaning. This allows him to connect with a more universal meaning that comes from the sound itself.

“We’re all connected through the subconscious, so when we listen to music on acid, it makes us have more of a tribal feeling,” he says.

Peter has the opposite experience, though. On acid, he’s more prone to finding meaning in music. If anything in the music is even remotely related to his life, his mind will pick up on it and make it significant.


Shrooms provide “a feeling that your body is sort of permeable,” making you feel music more intensely, says Lindsey.

For Peter, this shroom-induced connection to music can be ecstatic. “Once, when I was listening to one of my favorite songs on mushrooms, I actually came,” he remembers. “It reminded me of the joy in my life, and I just felt really warm, like I was in the prime of my life.” (In case you’re wondering what song accomplished this, it was “Tunnels” by Arcade Fire.)


For some people, music itself is a drug, bringing their mind to a state of increased emotion, energy, or depth. That’s one reason Nadia’s become a fan of “clean clubbing” — i.e., clubbing without drugs. “There are bits and pieces [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][of drug-induced experiences] left in your brain, and the effect comes back with the right music and atmosphere triggers, even when sober,” she explains. “The reason I had needed alcohol, weed, or pills before was simply because the music was not good enough. I became a fanatic club dancer even taking myself out alone, sober, on Sunday nights.”

In fact, drugs alone aren’t enough to create the trips Nadia desires. “I can’t imagine doing drugs away from a club or party. I need the cocoon of the loud music and heavy bass on a proper sound system,” she says. “Right drugs and right music combined equal a mini holiday, an educational escape.” [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Highlights from Austin: SXSW 2013

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Hello, Austin.

The whirlwind is over for another year.  South by Southwest, Austin’s prolific music festival, drew to a close this past weekend after an onslaught of performances by close to a thousand acts from all over the globe.  AudioFemme was on-hand to witness the spectacle and to attempt to cover as many of these performances as is humanly possible.  For us, SXSW represents a chance to catch bands on the rise, to see what they bring to an audience in a live setting, and to chat with them as well as with others in the industry.  For those who live, breathe, and love music, there’s nowhere else to be come mid-March.

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AudioFemmes on the loose!




But when Zachary Cole Smith, lead singer of Brooklyn band DIIV, drafted a disgruntled tumblr post early in the week about corporate greed running rampant at SXSW, I couldn’t simply dismiss it with a roll of the eyes.  SXSW is a thing that exists largely due to corporate sponsorship, as is made evident by the towering Doritos advertisements, free booze, and brand names attached to most any showcase.  These are all brands that are geared toward a young, music-loving demographic, from Doc Martens to Dolce Vita, from Spotify to Hipstamatic, from Taco Bell to Tito’s Vodka.  There’s no better place to sell wares to a generation that can’t focus on anything for longer than five minutes than to drop a banner behind a stage where Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are jumping around.  And there’s no better way to keep the ads coming, straight to the email inboxes of that hip demographic, than to make everyone RSVP to corporate-sponsored events.

So when Smith denounced SXSW as a “glorified corporate networking party” he wasn’t incorrect.  Diiv has never been afraid of name-dropping, dating models, or posing for fashion photographers, and later admitted to having a blast at SXSW despite the cynical outburst.  Though the post made some waves, there wasn’t a single person who disagreed wholly with the statements therein; if anything, a resounding “DUH” was heard throughout the festival.  And we partied anyway.

Avoiding the corporate goons, as it turns out, isn’t all that hard.  We recommend taking off the badge and trekking (or pedi-cabbing) over to Austin’s Eastside, where entrance to free shows – night and day – don’t require so much as proof of drinking age.  There, the quality of local artisan food trucks is leagues above lukewarm free tacos, and girls sell vintage clothes to help save their dying pit bulls.  It was home to some of the most inspiring performances I had the pleasure of seeing at SXSW this year, including a rambunctious 45-minute set from Thee Oh Sees, Impose Magazine’s expertly curated showcases, and several raucous Burger Records’ shindigs to name a few.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2419″]Thee Oh Sees “Contraption/Soul Desert”

Burger Records represents a paradigm in stark contrast to Smith’s blithe assertion that “music comes last” at SXSW.  Label founders Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard have spent the last six years putting out limited run cassettes and vinyl to an adoring audience, breaking artists like King Tuff and Ty Segall. If you want to know what’s next in terms of noise punk or kitschy garage or lo-fi pop, you could do much worse than to spend a few hours perusing Burger’s catalogue.  At SXSW, Bohrman and Rickard made it extra easy, throwing two large showcases and several satellite parties (including one at Trailer Space Records that had to be shut down by the fire department), giving the sunburned masses at SXSW a rare opportunity to absorb as much Burger in one sitting as their damaged ear drums and short attention spans could allow.  Frenzied sets by Audacity, Nobunny, Lovely Bad Things, Useless Eaters and Gap Dream – among many, many others – proved that there’s a lot of diversity and innovation within Burger’s staple sounds, and much to get excited about.

[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2420″]Lovely Bad Things

If there’s anyone more genuinely stoked about repping their local scene than Californians it’s probably Canadians.  I finally got to see Young Galaxy perform during Pop Montreal’s day party at The Liberty and my high expectations were met in every way.  This is a band who make songs about loving music wholeheartedly; on the b-side for the lead single from Young Galaxy’s newest album, Ultramarine (out April 23rd on Paper Bag Records) lead vocalist Catherine McCandless sings “I wouldn’t mind dying at all / If it weren’t for the songs I’d miss”.  Though they didn’t play it during the six song set at The Liberty, they closed out with newest single “New Summer”, an anthem to warm-weather flings and driving in cars with the “windows down and the stereo loud”.  Most poignant of all was the band’s affirming rendition of “Pretty Boy” (also on the forthcoming record).  Maybe it’s the fact that the band’s drummer is out as a lesbian, that I have friends struggling with gender identity, or the current political climate toward trans and gender queer folks, but it felt huge to hear McCandless singing “I felt your pain when you changed your name / We were each other’s only family” and then follow that up with “I know you feel isolated / and I hear what you won’t say / Who cares if they disbelieve us, don’t understand / You’re my pretty boy, always”.  That’s some pretty heavy shit to mask with upbeat synths and pop rhythms, but that’s Young Galaxy’s bread and butter.  Tackling those epic sorts of feelings and making people dance to it is what they do best.  And after playing six shows in four days, those emotions still felt authentic.

[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2411″]Young Galaxy “New Summer”

Playing zillions of shows in one week has got to be taxing, which probably contributes to the jaded attitudes that some bands have in their approach to SXSW, but there are just as many artists who embrace it.  Captured Tracks wunderkind Mac DeMarco (also from Canada, go figure) claims to have played seventeen shows over the course of the week and that probably wasn’t an exaggeration; his name popped up on more bills than any other.  I caught his last set on Saturday night at The Parish, where he started the evening by watching labelmates Naomi Punk from the side of the stage.  He mentioned several times that he was getting sick, but that didn’t stop him from delivering an energetic performance.  While he wasn’t swinging from the rafters as he had literally done at some shows a few days prior and didn’t put up much of a fight when then sound guy told him he was out of time, he retained the air of bratty whimsy for which he’s known as he mashed up favorites “Freaking Out The Neighborhood” “My Kind Of Woman” and “Rock and Roll Night Club” with the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Rammstein’s “Du Hast” (no, really).

[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2416″]Mac DeMarco “Du Hast/Freaking Out The Neighborhood”

Zac Pennington from Parenthetical Girls is yet another performer who proves that attitude and persona are everything.  Before his band’s set, he got into a bitchy spat with Valhalla’s sound man.  During the set, he paraded around an audience mostly filled with bros in attendance to see Maserati, draping himself over staircases and belting it out from the top of the circular bar like a cabaret version of Coyote Ugly.  Similar bravado appeared elsewhere as well – Mykki Blanco’s ferocious party jams transformed the mermaid grotto behind Easy Tiger into vogue-fest, followed by Angel Haze’s provocative mile-a-minute raps.  During “New York” Angel Haze descended from the stage, moving through an awed audience, and danced with yours truly while Edinburgh-based rappers Young Fathers looked on.  Young Fathers brought slick production, badass style, and sick dance moves to their SXSW performances, and was the one act that hands-down truly blew me away this year when I saw them Tuesday night at The North Door (look for an interview on AudioFemme soon).

[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2413″] Parenthetical Girls “Curtains” [jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2417″] Mykki Blanco

Not that there wasn’t plenty to be blown away by.  Waiting in line to see Phosphorescent, Metz and Youth Lagoon at Red-Eyed Fly, I ran into Ahmed Gallab, better known these days as Sinkane.  Ahmed and I go way back, having known each other from our years in Ohio where we met over a decade ago.  I’ve seen every band he’s ever played in, from the Unwound-esque Sweetheart to Pompeii This Morning (in which he played bedroom-produced dream pop before that was even a thing) and then, after he was asked to stand in for Caribou’s drummer through two tours, in Of Montreal and Yeasayer.  His Sinkane project is different in that it is wholly his endeavor, and his personal signature is always apparent.  He uniquely marries funk and psychedelica and Afrobeat and through consistently stellar live performances is finally starting to get the attention he deserves – even, it seems, from R&B megastar Usher.  Usher invited Ahmed on stage and performed Sinkane’s “Runnin'” to a packed Fader Fort, with Afghan Whigs as the backing band.  Watching this from backstage was one of my favorite moments of SXSW, not just because Ahmed got to play with such heavyweights but because they were singing his song.  And it could only have happened at SXSW, in part because of the corporate sponsorship Diiv railed against.  The fact of the matter is that bigwigs bring in big acts, allowing smaller bands who are trying to make it big the opportunity to meet those that inspired them and, dare I say it, connect, network, and collaborate.

That goes, too, for folks like myself who might easily be lumped into the “industry vampire” designation Zachary Cole Smith’s tumblr post pointed out.  Not only do I get to spend a week basking in the sun (or, you know, burning to a crisp) and drinking free bourbon that tastes like maple-syrup infused cake frosting, it’s an opportunity for me to meet other people who actually really do care about music, to trade notes, recommend bands, invade pedestrian bridges at 2am because Merchandise is playing a show on one.  Sure, it’s disappointing when bands have technical difficulties due to the strain of quick set-ups or shortened sets thanks to lightning-fast turn over, but just as often it’s inspiring to see a band make it work despite those constraints.  It’s also exhilarating to walk down a bustling street and actually hear music coming out of every bar, flowing together, washing over the crowd.  With any huge event like this, there are bound to be positives and negatives.  It would be nice if all this was just a random grouping of DIY efforts and corporations didn’t have any hand in it, but that’s not the case.  Even so, it manages to fulfill many of my music-loving fantasies, and that’s what keeps me going back over and over again.

[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2421″]SXSW Vine Compilation. In order of appearance: Avan Lava, Young Fathers, Nicholas Jaar, Radiation City, The Coathangers, Colleen Green, Psychic Twin, Parenthetical Girls, The Soft Moon, Marnie Stern, Palma Violets, Destruction Unit, a breif tour of 6th St., Bleeding Rainbow, Thee Oh Sees, Mykki Blanco, Angel Haze, Bridge Party feat. Merchandise/Parquet Courts, Metz, T.I. / Pharrell / B.O.B. etc., Sinkane / Usher / Afghan Whigs, Usher encore, Young Galaxy, Sam Flax, Lovely Bad Things, Audacity, Nobunny, Chris Cohen, Mac DeMarco, Conner Youngblood, Brooke Candy, and a night ride in a pedi-cab.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Five Things I Learned From CMJ 2012

Five years ago I tackled my first CMJ by drinking jitter-inducing amounts of free Sparks at an insane Crystal Castles blow-out, haunting le Poisson Rouge until 2am to see Kria Brekkan and Beach House, and getting lost on my way back to Queens after a School of Seven Bells show I’d managed to weasel my way into for free.  Every CMJ I’ve attended since has had shades of that first whirlwind foray, although I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten a bit better at navigating the mess.Some might say CMJ is becoming irrelevant, thanks to the shorter and shorter attention spans of listeners in a digital age.  But I can’t think of a time where it won’t feel exciting to me to analyze schedules in a quandary over how to parse out the day, or standing before a stage on which a nascent act buoyed by buzz will make or break their career.  And there’s nothing more sublime than being blown away by a band barely on your radar on the first place, glimpsed while you were waiting to see the next big thing in the following time slot.  Or knowing you were part of the crowd for the pivotal performances destined to be talked about weeks, months, even years in the future.  Despite this year’s slightly lackluster lineups, there were still memories to be made; here are the things that will stand out to me about CMJ 2012 five years from now.
1.) 2013 will be the year hip hop comes out of the closet.
As a fan of a good beat with a fondness for wordplay I adore hip-hop, but it can be really hard to reconcile that love with the homophobic and misogynistic attitudes so pervasive to the culture.  It’s not that I need every rap song to be a PSA about gender equality, but is the use of the word “faggot” ever really necessary?  Because I don’t care what it rhymes with – that word is ugly, especially when it’s in the middle of a verse about beating up queer people.The ironic thing is that no one does swagger better than a man dressed in drag.  And when a queen stops lip-synching “It’s Raining Men” and starts emceeing, you get something like Mykki Blanco, whose dark rhymes and party-ready beats turned a Saturday night performance at the Knitting Factory into an all-out dance party.  It was not the first of Blanco’s bombastic CMJ appearances, in which fabulous outfits were as standard as adept rhythm and fierce, noir-tinged rhymes – there had been a handful, including one I caught on Thursday at new party space Autumn Bowl. While the de rigeur drag show sashaying is in full effect, Blanco takes it someplace darker, appearing at Knitting Factory in black lipstick and spidery dreads, crouching low on stage and hissing into the mic as though presiding over a Satanic Black Mass.  Still, danceable hits like “Wavvy” brought the audience to its seething, shimmying full potential.  In those moments, it’s easy to understand what makes these artists so vital.  It lies in that ability to work a room into a wicked froth and yet still full command attention.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”1959″]Kalif Diouf, otherwise known as Le1f, also brought killer style and mad game to the stage at the Pitchfork Topman CMJ Party, but the sound in raw new venue Villain didn’t travel as far back as you had to stand to be able to enjoy the show without a bunch of aggro Vice types getting all up in your business.  Luckily, Le1f played a slew of other shows; I caught him the next evening at a late night party deep in Bushwick, closing out a bill that featured a JD Sampson DJ set.  Le1f’s flow was smooth, direct, and delivered with a healthy dose of booty bounce. Over relatively minimal beats with creative textures, Le1f rhymes a mile a minute, hypnotizing audiences with heavy hip gyrations.

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I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not about to sing the praises of these two artists simply because they are gay and in the rap game – the talent with each is so consistent and concise that it’s a shame to have to mention sexuality at all.  But, especially with hip-hop, we aren’t at a point where we can pretend that what these two (and a handful of others who didn’t happen to play CMJ showcases) are doing isn’t absolutely revolutionary, even if they are essentially just being themselves.  It’s the fearless approach to the spotlight – a rightful place for either to be regardless of gender identity or sexual preference – that could change the way hip-hop regards queer artists and hopefully the LGBT population in general.  If nothing else, it’s intensely satisfying to know that when I’m at a Le1f show, one of my fabulous gay homies can pick me up and spin me through the air like the queer Patrick Swayze I always dreamed would do that, and not have to worry about winding up as the victim of a hate crime afterward.  Safe spaces, y’all.

2.) I’d really like to be adopted by the Woodheads of Toronto, or at least invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m not sure Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving.
Did you ever visit a friend’s house in grade school and feel like you were on another planet?  Maybe because your friend had laid-back parents, or their decor was more World Market than, say, Cracker Barrel, or maybe even just because they had HBO.  I don’t know what was going on in the Woodhead household but I imagine it to be a more musical, more Canadian version of The Royal Tennenbaums.  I base this assumption on the fact that brothers Daniel and Airick Woodhead are two wildly talented and wonderfully weird musicians whose projects kept popping up in all sorts of CMJ venues.The brothers’ first band, Spiral Beach, was known for energetic live shows that resulted in much hype a few years ago.  Though in some ways the band’s studio recordings fail to capture that energy and are musically all over the map, they established deep ties during this time within Toronto’s music scene.  Maddy Wilde, the group’s female vocalist, went on to form Moon King with Daniel, a folksier, more direct offshoot of the ideas that the Spiral Beach had begun to explore.  Daniel is also a frequent co-conspirator in Airick’s electro-psychedelic pop outfit Doldrums, and Airick’s been involved with AudioFemme favorites Phédre.I saw two Doldrums performances, and as the week progressed so did their confidence.  The thing is, these kids are weird.  They’ve got this neo-hippie stage vibe, barely stopping short of performing meditations and crystal ceremonies on stage.  When they play, it’s really a head-down, focused on making odd sounds come out of keyboards and electronic gear kind of affair, though by the time they played the Knit on Saturday Airick was ripping off clothing and writhing around on stage.  But Doldrums isn’t a straight-up electronics driven band – the guitars and drums are live, and so are the vocal loops which give Doldrums songs such trance-like power.  For as focused and autistic as they can seem, the boys aren’t hiding behind laptops, and the results have positively psychedelic moments.

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By comparison, Moon King is a bit poppier, and the set at Cameo was even more mellow and toned down than I expected it to be given the EP’s frequently hyper moments.  But they didn’t spare any sentiment or dreaminess.  Maddy’s and Daniel’s vocals, scaled back from shriek to serenade, soar over ecstatic melodies and blend almost seamlessly together, no small feat considering the trademark almost-sneer of a Woodhead singing.  Moon King isn’t really classifiable in terms of genre, but it recalls a lot of things ranging from folksy sing-along to call and response protest punk.  But it’s not really any of that; it’s simply capable of evoking those moods.
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If Daniel and Airick never performed together, you might assume they were the same person, and even when they both grace the same stage it’s necessary to remind oneself that there’s not some mirror trick at play.  I imagine their early lives to be a bit like a classic Parent Trap movie, the two of them playing clever tricks on outsiders.  Or else I imagine them huddled in a blanket fort, making up secret languages only they knew how to speak.  Growing up as Woodheads obviously stoked some creative fires within these boys.  It’s no wonder that their various projects have become a nearly collaborative effort, and it’s interesting to note the particulars of each and speculate on what that must say about them as individuals.3.) Merchandise needs a drummer, very badly.

Merchandise released Children of Desire, an absolute gem of an EP, earlier this year.  Carson Cox’s plaintive vocals and thoughtful lyrics complimented the band’s brand of new wave punk cum noise pop well.  The EP shows remarkable growth for a band who built a solid following in Tampa’s punk and hardcore scene, but it became astonishingly clear at the shows I saw them play that it is mainly a studio project, without much of a live show to back it up.  Cox’s vocals deliver, the guitar work was deft, and the bass as immediate as on the record, but in place of a live drummer was a drum machine, hollowly keeping time but not providing anything in the way of the heart that these songs really deserve.

With the conflagration of acts who rely on drum machines as their only form of live percussion, you would think that it might not result in so much of a let down.  But Merchandise needs a drummer to really pull off the material on Children of Desire; playing without one simply doesn’t do them justice.  And I saw several bands this week that I would consider contemporaries of Merchandise, all of whom delivered with blistering performances.

Savages, for instance, absolutely blew me away and were possibly one of the best bands I saw all week.  Hailing from London, the all-female four piece astounded an entire room with a set that nearly bordered on sonic violence.  All these ladies know how to handle their instruments; they’ve built a reputation around playing out rather than focusing on recording their material.  Lead singer Jehnny Beth seethes on stage, her eyeballs wide, her gestures imploring and dramatic.  The kind of energy they create is contagious, driving fans into fits, but it couldn’t be pulled off without a drummer.

Metz also brought that kind of intensity to several performances throughout the week, playing loud and fast and heavy, creating the kind of punk rock paroxysm that edges them out over other purveyors of such.  But these aren’t just songs that are thrown together – they’re smartly crafted and seriously executed, never sloppy.  And it’s not just about assaulting eardrums and working audiences into frenzied thrashing, because you could just as easily dance to many of the songs, as long as you weren’t in an audience full of folks hellbent on moshing (sometimes, that happens, as evidenced by the ultra-shaky video I risked life and limb to shoot at Pitchfork’s CMJ party, hosted by new party space Villain).

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Gap Dream scale things back just a touch, but also illustrate how fun it can be just to see a full band play and play well together.  They’re from Cleveland (my hometown) and kind of have a sleazy seventies throw-back thing going on.  But they had everyone dancing at their Big Snow performance.  Lots of vocal reverb, elastic guitars, and pummeling drums could have filled a much bigger room than the tiny space into which we were all pleasantly crammed.
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These bands definitely have different things going on, but Merchandise could stand to learn a lesson from any of them.  If you want to get audiences engaged, start dance (or thrash) parties, move people beyond standing with crossed arms, you need percussive power to back up even the best material.  Here’s hoping their next shows will feature someone behind an actual kit.

4.)  Brooklyn’s new party spaces keep the live music scene vital.
Aaaaah, Brooklyn.  Years ago, CMJ was a thing that happened mainly on the Lower East Side, but each year more and more performers cross the bridge to play this lovely borough.  Though I’ve been disappointed by closures of some of my favorite DIY venues, from Monster Island to Silent Barn, the scene is constantly evolving and new locales keep opening up to replace the others.I was really impressed with Autumn Bowl, formerly a skate park (though maybe it still is?).  The circular stage was smack dab in the middle of the cavernous space, and risers lined the walls, making it easy for plenty of show-goers to catch the action.  It sounded great and as collaborator with Nuit Blanche New York hosted some incredible light installations.  Security is around, but pretty chill.  I’m hoping they’ll be hosting a lot of parties in the near future, and if they Four Tet DJ set they’ve got scheduled in a few weeks is any indication, there will be a lot to look forward to from this venue.I was slightly less impressed with Villian, though it was mainly the sound that got to me.  There are two large space separated by a wall, which makes capacity for shows smaller than what it should be but also helps keep crowding down to a minimum.  Villain is operated by a marketing firm, so the events they host there definitely have the earmarks of being a bit commercial.  The Pitchfork showcase I attended there was sponsored by Topman and Svedka, for instance.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I can’t complain about free drinks.  But the bottom line is that it turns shows into sales pitches for other things, and that’s one of the elements that makes huge festivals like SXSW something of a drag.  I’d hate to see the same thing happen to CMJ, which for whatever reason has escaped this fate til now.

I also got a chance to check out Big Snow Buffalo Lounge, a Bushwick rehearsal and performance space that opened just a few months shy of a year ago.  The performance area is cozy to say the least, and you’re right on top of the bands as they play since there’s not an actual stage, which makes it hard to see if you’re in the back and slightly awkward if you’re up front.  But that’s not to say the venue doesn’t have its charms, and the sound is unimpeachable and really, really loud.

I was super excited to check out Delinquency, especially since they’d booked a bunch of awesome shows and dance parties and were said to inhabit five or more separate rooms of an old warehouse.  Unfortunately, the venue was lacking the permits it needed, proving that operating a space in NYC isn’t the least complicated thing in the world, and rescheduled all its events at other venues.

The thing is, the venues I’ve here mentioned don’t even begin to scrape the surface of all that Brooklyn has to offer in terms of raw DIY spaces, and in the course of researching for our showcase (see below!) I found out that there are so many that I’ve yet to hear of.  Once resource I’m absolutely grateful for in sorting all of that out is Brooklyn Spaces, a compendium as complete as any I’ve seen of art collectives, galleries, performance spaces, studios, nonprofits, party places, and underground theaters.  Attending these venues is paramount to keep Brooklyn’s thriving underground and DIY scene going, so we encourage you to check them out and support them when you can.

5.) Putting together a showcase is hard.
Okay, so maybe this should have been more obvious to me to begin with, but we AudioFemmes barely had an inkling of what we were getting ourselves into when we started booking our blog’s showcase.  There are spaces to contact, sponsors to reach out to, and then there are the bands.  We’d have loved to host handfuls of them – picking bands out was certainly not the problem.  But tracking them down, or tracking down their management, or the label, or whoever, was just the first difficult step in actually confirming anyone to play.  Even if it hadn’t come together, we had quite the learning experience, but we’re happy to report that we put together a lovely little shindig featuring Datalog, Which Magic, Foxes In Fiction, and Autodrone.  The fact that it was on a Tuesday afternoon mattered little, we pulled it off for those that showed up, and recorded each brilliant performance (look for a stream of the audio from the show soon!).