Saturday was one of the most anticipated days at CMJ, with headliners like Kate Nash and Garrett Borns playing. They lived up to the hype.
The first act to break up the general pretty-good-but-not-great quality of Saturday day was Michael Blume. Playing at Rockwood Stage 2 to a packed crowd with a big stage band, Blume showcased his spectacular voice with a sparsely accompanied version of “Crazy.” The “progressive R&B singer” has rightly been compared to James Blake for his lyrics and the zig-zag ring of his voice that seems capable of climbing to any height.
The Michigan native Garrett Borns, aka BØRNS, pretty much blew everyone at Music Hall of Williamsburg away. The lythe little rocker screamed his heart out to the sold out venue, and the crowd screamed back louder. He is one of the few people who can get away with a giraffe pattern jacket and galloping blonde mane.
When he started, the room was swamped in booming bass, and scattered groups ran away for some earplugs. The front row lifted their hands and cried toward heaven. Harmonies rocked up to a new level, and they worked. Like Glass Animals, this is a band that received a fair amount of buzz before CMJ and the crowd’s anticipation was rewarded with a fantastic performance.
BØRNS is still gaining his sea legs when talking with the audience. “You’re a garden of blooming moon flowers.” he told the crowd after playing his hit “Seeing Stars.” Elsewhere he says this is like a first date for him. “Do you want an appetizer?” he asked.
His performance brought out the essence of his music – sexy, searing soul. His voice, particularly during “The Emotion,” was capable of doing anything.
You may already know that Kate Nash, the sweet brit of “Foundations” fame, has gone from a meek artsy girl to a pop-punk rocker. Dressed in silver filigree draped over the shoulder and wearing a kitten suit on Saturday night, Nash crowd surfed, stimulated cunninglingus, and oversaw a marriage proposal.
She played all her classic hits filtered through her new punk-ish aesthetic. It was so different from the originals that relied on her voice and piano, that with a couple girl guitarists and intense drummer, it sounded like she was covering a song from someone else.
The motley crowd of smiling people, replete with mohawks and fist pumps, were all too happy to sing and dance with Nash. The Bowery was turned into a gay club of sorts. One woman proposed to her girlfriend onstage, prompting Nash to change her lineup and perform a stripped down version of “Birds“. Nash, at one time, descended into the crowd, shredding her guitar in front of two hyper-excited gay boys, dressed in a Cubs and Mets outfit respectively (the Mets ended up winning that night).
Nash got a bit political toward the end, saying that girl bands like what she has are critical in a time where Planned Parenthood might be defunded and there’s a need for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nash has a strong and authentic vision of feminism. At one point the screen she played in front of showed nude women dancing on a beach. The angles weren’t necessarily flattering and the women didn’t smile into the camera; the whole dance was performed for their own fun rather than the cameras. That attitude of having fun for your own sake was felt throughout Nash’s performance.
Toward the finale, she invited 15 people on the stage, jumping around with them and taking selfies. Her encore was a perfect cover of “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks. She debuted a couple songs that are coming out later this year. Let’s just say her new music will not at all disappoint.