No Joy, a Montreal/L.A. quartet fronted by two guitar-wielding ladies with Cousin It hair streaming down to hide their faces, opened the Mexican Summer night in contemplative fashion, summoning any darkness in the room and blasting it forth with grungetastic riffs and morphine-dosed vocals that sparkled and seared in equal measure. Their Lush-esque, shoegazer licks came on clean and strong, and an impressive rhythm section courtesy of their two black-clad band mate fellas gave songs like “No Summer” and “No Joy” a slick backbone and raised the hair on the back of our necks. We liked the novelty of the set ending without any final notes or any adieu; The ladies were already busy packing up their gear on stage while their guitars still blared against their ballsy amps, while drummer and bassist played on.

Viva L’American Death Ray Music: the highlight of the night. Hail the return of art rock! Old West-meets-60′s glam mercenary psych as performed by a set of rockers who began back in Memphis ten or so years ago. They come on sneering with iconic, white splattered faces, a style fully unique, but perhaps with a little Alien Sex Fiend nod here, a little Adam and the Ants there, a little T. Rex thrown in there. Frontman Nicholas Ray, vocals/guitar (Limes, Golden Triangle and ‘68 Comeback) has a penchant for expressive monologues within songs, his lyrics on a par with Mark E. Smith, Lou Reed or Johnny Lydon (PiL). Jeffrey Bouck (Lithops, Polyphonic Spree) is the tour de force drummer with Stewart Copeland’s colorful, technical chops, an awe to behold. And their young, new third member on guitar, holding his own court in royal blue faux military jacket tee, with head wrapped in a handsome scarf to reveal mainly his eyes, as if he’s a prince who’s donned his best disguise to enjoy a long, Saharan camel ride in peace.

You can see that Viva have earned their stripes and relish their stage time. (Drummer Bouck told us later that one of their most recent favorite gigs was at an almost unimaginable artists’ squat in Zurich, the size of “three airplane hangers”). Though two of the band mates weren’t able to make the show (since they all live in separate cities, from Austin to New York to somewhere in France), tonight’s theatrical performance, complete with French outro woven in, was the kind of surprise that makes festivals like CMJ worthwhile.–Madeline Virbasius/video to come by Zabatay

  1. [...] I would describe as classic buzz-saw shoe-gaze in the Jesus and Mary Chain vein. Here’s what Sentamentalist Mag said about their Knitting Factory gig at CMJ this year: No Joy, a Montreal/L.A. quartet fronted by [...]