Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chapel Club Invade New York at CMJ

Remember the scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks tries to get off the island for the first time? Picture yourself as that character, you are in the middle of the sea and suddenly the atmosphere around you changes and in front of you is a massive wave, the wave comes crashing down with the force of an iron fist slamming you into the bottom of the ocean, then suddenly you swim back to the top and are carried back to shore. In every way possible that is the how the music of Chapel Club hits you. It builds to amazing and forceful heights, hits you in profound ways then carries you to where you need to be.
The London five piece have been all the buzz back in the UK, appearing on the NME Radar tour, Jools Holland and have been featured in every British music publication since they broke onto the scene late last year.
I have even had the honor of being the first American music writer to chat with the band earlier this year and have been waiting with baited breath to catch them live. Finally my wait was over as they made their US debut this week at CMJ. Playing five shows in three days, the band did not let the tolling experience take them down, as excitement seemed to be what kept them energized. I caught up with the band on the second to last day of the music marathon and was able to catch them twice that same day. Speaking with them before a party for Fader Magazine, I spoke with singer Lewis Bowman as he said “It has been a great experience, we played Arlene’s yesterday which was great and Littlefield which did not have so many people, but it happens. But it has been good, my voice is going a bit.” After we chatted, Lewis took the stage to soundcheck with his bandmates and surprised the crowd goers at the Fader party. They went on at 4:30 in the afternoon and as the crowd seemed to be feeling the effects of running around all week, the band lifted them up for a rousing performance. Stumbling with sound issues at first, Chapel Club brought their melodramatic music to life and the crowd seemed to respond with praise. Playing for only thirty minutes it was a quick set that had them showing off why they are becoming so popular back home. It is passionate and ethereal music that strikes a chord with everyone listening. In a set which included the singles; “O Maybe I,” “All the Eastern Girls,” “The Shore” and “Surfacing” it was a performance from a band that New Yorkers will keep on their radar. After the gig I spoke with guitarist Michael Hibbert about his CMJ experience, he said “it has been fun, different for us but fun.” Lewis Bowman went onto say about the gig “it was a good time, they seemed to enjoy us, see what happens tonight.” As the band did a quick photo shoot, they took their gear, packed in it their rented van and hauled off to Brooklyn for a soundcheck at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
After their earlier gig, Chapel Club were one of the headlining acts for a showcase at Music Hall that featured other British Buzz bands like Everything Everything, Blood Red Shoes, Johnny Flynn. This was a much later gig, as the band took the stage around quarter to midnight; I just walked into the venue as they started playing. The venue was much more packed than from what they had experienced that afternoon and seemed to dazzle those who were in attendance. Talking with some crowd goers, it sounded as if a majority of people were there for Everything Everything and more for Blood Red Shoes, most had no idea who Chapel Club were. That seemed to change after another short but sweet set from the lads. Chapel Club again only played for a half hour, but in that time they locked in the attention of those who were there and that is what CMJ is about. In the long list of great British bands to come play at CMJ over the years, a list that includes: The Smiths, Stone Roses, Oasis, The Verve, Blur, Pulp, Coldplay, Muse and last year’s break out band The xx, Chapel Club have entered that category. They are a band that you will have to keep on your radar now and as they are set to release their debut in March, 2011 is going to be a big year for them. I for one can say that following them for almost a year now, it is going to be a pleasure watching them get bigger and to have seen them on their first trip to America, it is something I can hold in high regard.