Last year, the 5pm CMJ Saturday afternoon spot went to Savages and this year Savages are headlining terminal 5. This year the headliners are Brooklyn boys Caveman and on the strength of this showing and their eponymous sophomore album, Caveman are indeed ready for their close up.
In an attention getting, quietly arrogant 35 minute set, the band commandeered the Piano stage with a lead singer Matt Iwanusa whose baritone deserves comparison with Matt Beringer and is as much a part of this indie moment as any anyone, anywhere. Their set would seem to float yet it doesn’t because it is so strongly anchored at all times. A five piece band with both drums and drum machine, neither of whom are begging for attention, leaves the rest of the band free to build up the walls of sound.
The album is a little downbeat for my tastes but on stage it is much better, Iwanusa is a good frontman, he is charmer who offsets the bands slow paced ruminations with an attitude that exudes self-confidence and smarts. The audience loves it and while I’m not at all well versed on the new album, can consistently hear sounds that hold my interest.
I mentioned the national and things move so fast nowadays that the National sound like the Godfathers of folkie-indie with a touch of shoegaze but, like the National, Caveman realize that slow isn’t the same as lazy and they work hard at weaving a wall of lovely sound. The reserve which can work against them on record is a plaything on stage where they have a certain charisma at odds with, say, Real estate, who do absolutely nothing on stage.
Oddly enough, Caveman didn’t jam out as much as you might expect given the album, perhaps time restraints, 35 minutes, had them closing ranks and playing hard and tight in a scene where a certain lack of form would appear to be a prerequisite, either walls of synths and guitars comes at you in waves of sound and words, “Sing a song spare time”, “ no sign of love”, “time to waste on someone else’s life”, “It’s not all me it’s you”… words of break up and heartache are echoed in songs that would be all mood if the melodies were weaker.
Instead, the band eased through their set with the ease of major players and threw the gauntlet to 2014, at which time who knows where caveman will be? But they will definitely further along the road to indie stardom.
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