Vagina Panther, Mr. Muthafu*kin eXquire, Hard Nips, the Harmonica Lewinskies & Butter the Children have CMJ's worst names, but were their gigs any good?
The annual CMJ Music Marathon, which took over many of New York's smaller venues from Oct. 16-20, is not for the faint of heart with hundreds of acts to choose from. This year, in a bid for maximum fun, we set out to pick the five worst band names playing CMJ and investigate to find out if they are any good.
Leaving behind the common tack of seeing cool acts (Ghostface Killah, MNDR, The Walkmen), once-hot veterans (Local H, Felix da Housecat), and too many unknown bands some blog (or friend) said might be cool to all the other folks waving around CMJ badges, the first step was narrowing down the field to the five worst names. Diarrhea Planet, who played CMJ last year, sadly were not on the 2012 schedule, but there were plenty of awful names to consider: DJ Dog Dick, Violent Bullsh*t, Bearstronaut, Moon Hooch, Fat History Month, Badasseries, Septic Flesh. But ultimately five other awesomely bad names won out, and the live investigation began. Who had the five worst monikers? Was their music as bad as their names? Read on to find out how it all turned out. And fair warning: some of these names may be NSFW or inappropriate for small children.
Vagina Panther's CMJ set at Trash, Oct. 17, 2012
Between the goofy genital/absurdist name and the disturbing logos (involving, er, teeth) that came up during a pre-show Google, it seemed that a band called Vagina Panther had to suck. This assessment was absolutely wrong. When the black-clad quartet took the stage at Brooklyn's Trash Bar early on Wednesday (Oct. 17), an impressive number of attendees suddenly materialized with the first huge, vibrating powerchord from tiny frontwoman June Sung's black Gibson on opening tune "Cheeseburger," which also leads off the New York band's new EP, "Judge." Turned out Sung has a voice to match -- one of those mid-register female voices that snarl and swoon with drop-d tuned guitars in just the right way. In fact, by the end of the brief set (driven also by guitarist Kit Days, bassist Jonathan Swass and drummer Rut), faint echoes of Sub Pop-era Soundgarden came to mind. It made sense to find out later, then, that "Judge" was produced by the same James Brown who has done work behind the boards for Foo Fighters and Jane's Addiction. Clearly, Vagina Panther rocks, but who knows if the name will become a help or hinderance to finding a wider audience.
Far and away the best known bad name on this list, the Brooklyn rapper already has a sizable fan base, has collaborated with the likes of Gucci Mane, and his debut EP "Power & Passion" is due on Nov. 6 from Universal Republic. No surprise, then, that eXquire totally commanded the stage during three of his many CMJ appearances, the MTV Hive showcase at Webster Hall and the Leaders of the New Cool showcase at SOB's (both on Wednesday, Oct. 17), and the Mass Appeal showcase headlined by Asher Roth at the Gramercy Theatre on Friday (Oct. 19). Webster Hall seemed to fill up the moment before Mr. MFN eXquire's got onstage. Even the doorman said he expected it to get crazy for his set. Which, in short order it did, especially as the hometown rapper got his fans riled by yelling and barking back and forth with them. Eliciting an equally big response, eXquire brought out Killer Mike to help perform the track, "Huzzah." Verdict? He lived up to the swaggering, bold name. But everyone knew he would.
Hard Nips' CMJ set at Spike Hill, Oct. 18, 2012
Hard Nips is just a ho-hum, mildly sexual pun on first glance, but what heightens the name's kick -- or degrades it, depending on your point of view -- is that the band is comprised of, wait for it, punk-influenced Japanese women. Hard Nips. Think about it. The two-year-old Brooklyn-based, Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa-bred quartet bounced into its 45 minute set at Williamsburg's Spike Hill on Thursday (Oct. 18) to a crowd of five that grew to maybe thirty and wound up with guitarist Mariko Nips (yes, they all use the band as a surname a la the Ramones) hoping over a strategically placed box of Nips candy and writhing through a solo on the floor among the attendees while front woman Yoko Nips pogoed onstage. All in all, the band, who had a male drummer sitting in for Emi Nips, were sloppy but fun enough as they threw down plenty of, yes, Ramones-y tunes with names like "Alligator," complete with "1,2,3,4!" lead-ins. The overarching feeling was sheer energy over chops, but that seemed to be the point. They may be toiling away largely unknown in New York still, but the band, amusingly, has had its song "Sunshine Overload" featured in a commercial for Kewpie, a Japanese brand of mayonnaise.
Harominca Lewinskies' CMJ set at Littlefield, Oct. 16, 2012
Yes, they have plenty of harmonicas. No, they probably aren't old enough to really remember when President Clinton's situation with the one-time White House intern made the name Monica Lewinsky famous back in '98. Tuesday night (Oct. 16), the ten-piece garage-funk outfit (who each also use Lewinsky as a jokey surname) brought its (plastic) horn-tooting, matching-suspender-wearing revue -- striving for Stax-meets-Americana but managing only jamband-meets-They-Might-Be-Giants -- to Littlefield, in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood. While the big, ridiculous ensemble was reasonably tight as a musical unit, the big, ridiculousness of it all was why it didn't gel: it just seemed like a big joke, like the name of new self-released ep "Octopus Wall Street." Don't tell that to the ardent but small contingent who came down to do 80's inspired dances furiously and unironically.
Butter The Children's CMJ set at Legion, Oct. 20, 2012
With a name that induces visions of something the witch in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale might have said, Butter the Children instead turned out to be a very tentative, slightly twee, very loud shoegazey rock four-piece that bashed away bittersweetly and very briefly at Brooklyn's Legion bar on Saturday (Oct. 20). Lest the awkwardly performed tunes fail to make an impression on the small audience, frontwoman Inna Mkrtycheva handily repeated the band name with a smirk, probably knowing it was a big part of the group's draw. Despite that, Butter the Children came bearing no merch at all, not even its self-titled 2012 ep, a missed opportunity if ever there was one.
Additional reporting by Erika Ramirez