Fittingly for the CMJ Music Marathon, Portastatic (featuring ex-Superchunk lead singer Mac McCaughan) opened their Knitting Factory set last night with a cover of classic college rock band the Go-Betweens. McCaughan and violinist Margaret White then played an acoustic set of infectious indie pop songs from Portastatic’s last two albums. At one point, McCaughan invited a crowd member on stage, and then sent him off with the cheeky question, “Were you dancing the Macarena while I was singing?” But McCaughan set irony aside for closer “I Wanna Know Girls,” a straightforward love song centered on the unabashed lyric, “I love your feet and your legs and everything going up from there.”
After Portastatic’s mellow set, Merge labelmates White Whale kicked off their performance with a wave of feedback. White Whale follow an indie rock blueprint of anthemic, clever tunes heavy on guitars and drums. The mythically-named Kansas five-piece lived up to their grandiose moniker with crushing songs, including one sung through a megaphone.
Earlier in the evening, Jesse Malin — former lead singer of Heart Attack and D Generation — played an acoustic set at the small Lower East Side venue the Living Room. It was a laid-back, anecdote-laden performance from a musician best known for being one of the early faces of glam rock in New York. At a 6 P.M. show, though, it was a tranquil way to kick off a night sure to get wilder. STORY BY KAREEM ESTEFAN. PHOTOS BY ANDREW HINDERAKER