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CMJ at The Fillmore
October 19, 2007

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson


Opposite Photo: Bomani Dmite Armah

College Music Journal has dubbed its annual festival a Music Marathon. This is true both of the five day stretch encompassing just about every club in downtown Manhattan (and a couple in Brooklyn) but also of many of the shows themselves. Each gig could possibly result in participants spending hours on their feet powering through set after set as new band after new band gets a turn on the stage. In the end, though, looking back over the course of the night, no matter how much energy it took to make it to the end at CMJ the journey is always worth it. On a cool, rainy night a small army of musicians lit up the Fillmore each bringing a unique sound to the show. Though their styles certainly varied, the quality with which they performed was uniformly fantastic.

Experimental rock quartet The Apes took the stage first with a burst of off-beat time changes, a haunting, half-psychotic vocal, and some of the most aggressive keyboards you’ve ever heard. Lead singer Breck Brunson showed his DC roots with a performance that gave the band the illusion of being the disgruntled step-child of D.C. hardcore. They were breakneck, angular, dissonant rock in all its glory, and needless to say, they were great.

Yo Majesty

Hip-hop duo Yo Majesty was next in line expertly mixing an off-the-wall party vibe with a seamless, breathless flow and a ridiculously tight delivery. They had grit and they had bounce in equal measure showing an amazing skill in writing and technique. Even without their irrepressible personalities the way the two MCs weaved in and out of each other’s lines was sick as hell.

Bomani Dmite Armah

Continuing the revolving door of acts, Bomani — who claimed he was “not a rapper but a poet with a beat” — took the stage next. Though some of his rhymes seemed stretched his personality, passion and skill as a lyricist made up for it. He brought pure sincerity and razor sharp wit in equal amounts and his raps about education and social justice were well-received all around.

Matt of Earl Greyhound

Shifting gears yet again were the three members of Earl Greyhound. With a raucous guitar, high-powered drums and a phenomenal bass player with wicked scream they were an explosion of pure energy and instrumental virtuosity. Their ultimate appeal lies in whether or not each individual listener thinks that 70s-era hard rock really needs to make a comeback. If yes, Earl Greyhound’s blistering solos and straightforward presentations will certainly impress. If no, their show is fun to watch anyway.

Shingai Shoniwa of The Noisettes

The Noisettes were the fifth (fifth!) band to take the stage. Lead singer Shingai Shoniwa was a dynamo in hot pants as the trio blasted through the lion’s share of their debut record, What’s the Time Mr. Wolf? The successes of the record — a compelling mix of swing and a laundry list of other styles, well thought out arrangements, and a ton of energy — however the limitations exhibited on the record showed through as well: too little variation between their own songs and an audible plateau when it comes to the tools they use to reconstruct rock. Good or bad, they were pretty much exactly what any listener would expect after hearing their album.


It seemed like a backstage party began spilling out under the bright lights during Santogold’s set and her brand of dub/hip-hop/dancehall/rock played on unfazed — and perhaps even more energized. She had a distinct vocal that was varied enough to be indescribable, much like her music. With a style that pretty much blended together all the styles of music that had played before her, everything about her music was vibrant, alive and ready to get into some (good-natured) trouble. She immediately the most entertaining act in a night that had already featured a lot of incredibly fun music.

Spank Rock

Spank Rock capped off the night with his patented brand of club hip-hop. The party on stage officially kicked into full swing as an extra large bottle of Belvedere was quickly depleted and entourage and fans both got down on stage. Spank’s songs, both in the lyrics and in the beats, are full of fun and sex and the audience responded in kind. Musically speaking his appeal will also ultimately be strictly a matter of taste. Listeners who liked “Big Pimpin” when Jay-Z was still on top of hip-hop will love Spank Rock. Everyone else might wonder what the big deal is, but not until the next afternoon, after they have quietly sneaked out of an unfamiliar apartment and are lying comfortably on their couch trying to outlast a hangover.

Spank Rock

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