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CMJ Day Four: Maccabees, Drug Rug Pack Flavor

CMJ’s label showcases are characteristically a mixed bag ofartists and tunes, and thankfully, Bowery Ballroom’s Friday night (Oct.19) offering was no exception. Running the gamut from ’60s folk andpsychedelia to contemporary Swedish power pop, the bill felt like aninventive seven-course meal, each dish standing out on its own for theaudience’s palate.

Kicking off the evening with a dose of folksy, blues-rock was Boston’s Drug Rug,who provided the venue’s patrons a hit of sunny melody on what was arather rainy and dismal evening. The New Englanders created a warmhaven from the bleak weather with a detectable Byrds-meets-Galaxie 500element flowing through the sound system. “Day I Die” transportedlisteners back to summer days of late ’60s and early ’70s, completewith a twinge of the Grateful Dead’s noodling sonic. This is a bandthat certainly doesn’t deny their influences, and considering thecrowd’s happy response to the their quirky theatricality, it’s worthappreciating.

The 1900s‘dated moniker bodes well with their vintage vibe, and the seven-membertroupe from Chicago adds a hodgepodge of elements to create theirdistinct blend of neo-psychedelic pop. “Bring the Good Boys Home” wassheer bouncy fun, calling forth associations with contemporary CameraObscura and old-school Strawberry Alarm Clock. “Two Ways” is clearly aband favorite, evident in joyous tambourine shakes and when onstagedancing amongst members kicked into high gear. The 1900soffered an eclectic blend of the novel and antique, and it’s certainlynot every day that you get to hear psychedelic organ licks stroked withrich violin.

Next, Swedish stalwarts Sahara Hotnightstook the stage with a vengeance, and as always, these chicks were aforce to be reckoned with. Music biz veterans on a bill of relativenewbies, the foursome staked their turf with unrelenting beats andriffs. Few drummers rock as hard as Josephine Forman, who garnered herown applause when leaving the stage. Vocalist/guitarist Maria Anderssonpicked her guitar furiously through new songs like “Visit to Vienna”and “The Loneliest City of All,” off of this year’s album What If Leaving is a Loving Thing.”Cheek to Cheek” verges on ’80s territory, and with Andersson’s spandexleggings and spiked heels the mood took on a whole new sense ofsuitability. Always fierce and frenzied, Sahara Hotnights pleased theireager and excited crowd. Yow!

“They must be Canadian, right?” whispered a concertgoer to his buddy as Alberta Crosstook the stage. Actually, they do sound a lot like Toronto band PilotSpeed, but no — these lads are straight from London, England. And theband’s new EP, The Thief & the Heartbreaker, took aspotlight during their set. “Leave Us & Forgive Us” offered aneerie ambiance with a trace of melancholy, but the surging melodysmacks of the White Stripes or Radiohead. Otherwise, don’t forget Kingsof Leon, whose elements peppered the more bluesy numbers, but it’s allpretty steady and wistful material. Alberta Cross’ whole act seems tobe about ambiance; It’s not that the songs or lyrics are particularlyear-catching or memorable — or decipherable, for that matter, thanksto muttered vocals — but instead, build to create an atmosphere.

Soon the crowd shifted into high gear for the irresistibly high-octane outfit the Maccabees.As the charismatic Orlando Weeks clung to the microphone stand like alittle boy, the audience leapt and swelled with the infectious energypouring forth from the stage. Their latest LP, Colour It In,took the bulk of the set, as did catchy and pulsing songs like “FirstLove” and “About Your Dress.” Girls in the crowd sighed over Weeks’endearing awkwardness during “Toothpaste Kisses,” and everyone poundedthe air with Robert Dylan Thomas’ drum stylings during “Precious Time.”And note: Weeks’ has a perceptible and often lovely vibrato. It’s easyto understand why they’re associated with fellow Brits and formertouring partners Bloc Party, because the band vacillates so easilybetween beautiful melodies and churning drumbeats. The Maccabees gavewhat was easily the set of the night.