Friday night's showcase at Cake Shop featured the prototypical CMJ Marathon lineup: a few acts you've maybe heard of, a few you definitely haven't, and at least one you're enticed to check out on name alone (Viking Moses). It was the type of indie-rock grab bag where headliners Vivian Girls — a punk-rock trio who released their self-titled lo-fi debut this year — have, relatively speaking, something like star power. We came toward the end of the night, wisely it turns out, as Woods, the last band before Vivian Girls, accidentally filled the packed basement with endless peals of feedback while setting up. We braved it, our heart going out to all the poor souls who subjected themselves to the surely countless number of such awkward CMJ moments. But when the band finally got their shit together, we found their shambling and folksy tunes, with choruses full of ooh-woos, to be joyful little treats. (And it didn't hurt that the singer dressed like early-nineties Beck but sang like a girl alone in her backyard.) Complemented by a fun and loose Vivian Girls set — the band churned out their quick-burst jams, pausing just long enough for mumbled banter and swigs from a shared beer bottle — the night turned out to be another kind of typical CMJ experience: the pleasant surprise.
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