CMJ REVIEW: Couch Sessions #CircusCMJ Showcase, DROM, NYC

CMJ kicked off last Tuesday, and the Couch Sessions wasted no time getting down to business with a showcase offering up nine acts that ran the gamut from indie rock to hip-hop to R&B and back again.

The evening began with DC synth-soul group Misun, who opened the night at a little past nine at DROM in Manhattan’s East Village. The band’s lead singer’s airy vocals filtered out over the growing crowd, who filtered into the club’s high-ceilinged main room and began packing close to the stage. With each group getting a 15-20 minute time slot to show what they could do, the evening moved quickly, rotating through a number of different styles and moods.

Bianca Raquel‘s big band included a one-two punch of a horn section and a trio of scantiily-clad backing dancers as the R&B singer delivered sweet and smooth vocals with jazz-funk backing from her tight band, including a stripped apart “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and a thunderous “So Fresh, So Clean” that down-shifted from full-throttle funk to a swanky walking jazz and right back up again before delving into originals such as “Mr. Tin Man” and “Moments.”

After Brian Ellis with Soundwave continued the soaring-vocal trend of the evening — finishing up his set just moments before his DJs’ laptops died — Cheers Elephant brought a return to Earth with a distorted and high-energy rocking set, performing for longer than expected to the delight of both the band and the crowd.

Denitia and Sene dialed back the energy but not the emotion, while Dee Goodz‘s hip-hop set — later joined by collaborators the Kickdrums, who then played their own blistering performance — was a welcome switch at the right part of the evening.

But the real highlight of the night came as many people had trickled out — it was nearing 1 in the morning on a Tuesday, after all — leaving about forty people to witness Ava Luna‘s earthy rock mastery. Despite being a new act for the majority of the people left in the building, they received one of the loudest ovations of the night, and were urged back for a 1:30 AM encore by every single person in the crowd.

As a festival opening night party, it was a success — one full of great, diverse music, and one that left most people a little out of it Wednesday morning, a sure sign of a good party.