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CMJ '08: Castles Made Of Crystal

Crystal_castles Alice Glass just stared into my soul. Gyrating across the stage, her pale, skinny figure made visible by multiple strobe lights and the pop of a dozen camera flashes, the lead singer of Crystal Castles approached the edge of the platform in front of me and shrieked some lyrics while peering into my eyes.

It's hard to survive in the front row of a Crystal Castles show because of the pummeling crowd movement, but their entrancing performance at Webster Hall on Thursday night made the claustrophobia seem like a minor trouble.

With electronic beats exploding like gunfire around her, Glass leapt into the audience, took swigs from a bottle of red wine, hissed into two microphones at once and curled into a ball onstage after nearly every song. It was a beautifully unhinged performance, possibly the most memorable at this year's CMJ. The crowd was left bruised and breathless, but eager to shell out $20 for a t-shirt.

Fujiya & Miyagi, who had the slot before Crystal Castles, was more of a mixed bag. Their groovy Krautrock had impressed me when I caught them last year, and all of the same characteristics were there for this show: creeping bass lines, occasional drumming and David Best's hushed vocals. The problem was that the crowd had no desire to chill out when Crystal Castles' madness was about to be unleashed. It also didn't help that Fujiya's set predictably focused on their new album, "Lightbulbs," which lacks the slick songwriting of their 2006 disc "Transparent Things." Even singles like "Collarbone" and "Knickerbocker" failed to become the live highlights that they were designed to be. The band's set was likable, but didn't find the connection with the crowd that I knew Fujiya & Miyagi was capable of creating.

Perhaps Fujiya's lack of stage presence was also due to the fervor that the preceding band, WhoMadeWho, had built up. Clad in jester costumes, the dance/punk group from Denmark came off like a more masculine version of MGMT, with bouncy guitar riffs and endlessly danceable rhythms. Their songs had the audience moving and shaking, and a cover of Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" ignited a party within Webster Hall. More than any band I've seen thus far at CMJ, it made me desperate to check out their most recent album. -- Jason Lipshutz

October 24, 2008 in CMJ | Permalink

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