KEXP @ CMJ 2011, Day 3: Caveman

photos by Brittney Bush Bollay

If you’ve never heard of New York quintet Caveman, that’s all about to change. The band has gone from underground to the spotlight, helped in part by opening spots for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, White Rabbits, Wye Oak, Yuck, and Here We Go Magic. Of course, riding on the coattails of others isn’t impressive, but upon listening to the group’s debut CoCo Beware it’s clear that these guys are headed to the top. Synth textures waft like curtains behind melodic guitars and practiced vocal harmonies, as laid-back drums keep the group in time. It’s a blend of folk and chamber pop that’s as revelatory as it is addicting.

The biggest crowd of the day had gathered for the penultimate performance of KEXP’s live broadcasts from the lobby of the Ace Hotel, presented by Toyota Free Yr Radio. Caveman played an impressive set of indie rock, led by vocalist Matthew Iwanusa, who in addition to singing typically plays a single tom standing up. Though the band – Iwanusa, a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, and a keyboardist – is a traditional five-piece set-up, Caveman’s music is very effect-heavy, and both the keyboardist and guitarist contribute an airy, spacy, and whirring ambience that hangs behind the rhythm section and Iwanusa’s vocals. What keeps their music from spinning too far into orbit is the emphatic drumming of both drummer Stefan Marolachakis and Iwanusa. In tandem, they play tom-heavy, tribal-sounding drum lines that pound Caveman’s songs back down to earth and give them a sense of urgency that contrasts well with the spacey effects and guitar work.

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