Held at the former Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Brooklyn (now The Park Church Co-Op), an unofficial CMJ showcase sponsored by Portals and Stadiums & Shrines Music featured several local artists. With DJ sets by Maymind filling in between the live music, the evening offered and eclectic host of electronica and singer-songwriters.
Starting off the night was a set from Montreal artist johnny_ripper whose avant-garde approach as a DJ was complemented by the projections and lighting, but as a live performance underwhelmed. While as the opening act of the night, the small draw of the crowd allowed his projections to shine through, the music just wasn’t quite as fascinating. As an experience, the visuals were more captivating than the minimalist soundscapes, yet inevitably fell flat.
Massachusetts singer Mal Devisa, armed only with a bass, the occasional drum sample, and her powerhouse vocal style made for an immense performance. Utilizing a loop pedal to fill in the rhythms, Devisa sounded like a full ensemble coming out of a tiny bass amp, underneath the raw, emotional quality of her voice. Whether freestyling, throat singing, or reaching into a piercing soprano, she proved to have some of the most significant presence of the night. Loaded with a brash, bold style Mal Devisa is unapologetic and confrontational to the world in all of it’s oppressive nature.
While admitting that it was hard to follow the previous act, Leslie of the New Brunswick trio Long Beard’s brand of easy-listening, borderline Bon Iver sets made for one of the softer moments in the evening. Although, the free beer may have loosened up some less-than-considerate fans, the crowd was inevitably shushed repeatedly by fans of the singer’s more delicate sound. Taking albeit lengthy time in between sets to tune her guitar, the compositional strength of her pieces made them completely worthwhile, while empty at moments.
Electronica artist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith began her set by inviting the audience to sit and enjoy the projections as they were blocked for the previous two acts. With some FKA Twigs-esque vocal effects, and the immersive lighting setup made for an atmospheric experience. Although one of the slower sets, the producer brought her own projection art that complemented the lush instrumentation.
Finishing out the night was a solo set from singer-songwriter Mitski. Starting off with a new track off her upcoming 2016 release, possibly called “Your American Girl” she dived into her major track “Townie” off her third record “Bury Me at Makeout Creek.” Teasing the audience with the more stripped down sound of two other new tracks, she also threw in songs off her sophomore record “Retired From Sad, New Career in Business,” especially the not often performed “Shame.” As a live artist, Mitski’s live banter between sets reveal the singer at her most intimate, reminding the audience to “Call your parents, but not now because it’s late.” Similarly, she expressed this sentiment at her Bowery Ballroom show opening for Speedy Ortiz saying “Babies are fucking useless, but we all were babies at one point and someone took care of you.” Performing most of her “Makeout Creek” material translated well from the more ornate arrangements into the most minimal of settings, showing Mitski’s true range from a trio, down to a solo artist. Closing out her set with a guitar-driven version of “Class of 2013” she sings into the guitar in a peak moment of catharsis before her emotionally bare “Last Words of a Shooting Star.”
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith