Backbeat: Life or Death CMJ Showcase With Psychic Ills, Trash Talk, Wise Blood, Tyler the Creator's Love of Cinna Stix
Backbeat: Life or Death CMJ Showcase With Psychic Ills, Trash Talk, Wise Blood, Tyler the Creator's Love of Cinna Stix
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Subterranean Cake Shop Blues: Psych-rock group Psychic Ills performs at Cake Shop during the Life or Death PR showcase. (Photo: Jason Lipushutz)

A handful of fiercely hyped indie artists descended upon New York's Cake Shop on Thursday night (Oct. 20) for a CMJ showcase celebrating the growing roster of Life or Death PR (based in Los Angeles). The clogged venue hosted bands like heavy rockers Psychic Ills, rhythmic pop artists Wise Blood and rising rappers Main Attrakionz who played a tiny stage in Cake Shop's narrow basement, while Life or Death founder Heathcliff Berru and his small crew happily wandered the venue and nodded along to their artists.

Standing in the darkly lit subterranean club after finishing her set, doom-rock artist Chelsea Wolfe chatted about joining the Black Heart Procession for a brief tour that kicks off Dec. 2, and lamented the fact that the strings on her guitar had somehow broken while being stowed away on a recent flight. Outside Cake Shop 10 minutes later, Jeremy Malvin, the mastermind of electronic act Chrome Sparks, was outside Cake Shop describing how he gathered three college friends from the University of Michigan to help him play recent shows in Cleveland and Pittsburgh before heading to CMJ.

Main Attrakionz -- whose "808s & Dark Grapes II" album received critical acclaim upon its August release -- sounded a little beat an hour before they played their third CMJ show of the day; the rap duo is playing a whopping nine shows during the five-day festival. Meanwhile, Trash Talk, the hardcore group whose "Awake" EP was just Best New Music'd by Pitchfork, got their jollies outside by posing in front of an NYPD squad car -- which Lee Spielman secretly flipped off.

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The unifying theme of the night, however, was the quality of the acts playing: artists like Wolfe, Wise Blood and Trash Talk are the latest indie client scores for Life or Death PR, which also reps Frank Ocean, How To Dress Well, and Odd Future, which commanded a much larger crowd at New York's Terminal 5 the night before. "It's a great lineup," says Malvin. Added Main Attrakionz's Squadda B, "We've played so many shows that we've gotten the chance to check [the other artists] out, and it's been great."

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When he wasn't speaking to artists or watching bands from the back of the room, Berru echoed the praise of the bands and told stories about life on the road with Odd Future. The controversial rap group's go-to food? Domino's Pizza, apparently -- with extra Cinna Stix for OF leader Tyler The Creator.

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Is There a Coathanger Going Through My Head? Chelsea Wolfe in the basement at Cake Shop. (Photo: Jason Lipushutz)
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What's To Smile About? Main Attrakionz: Squadda B (left) and Mondre Man pose with their manager Walkmaster Flex (right). (Photo: Jason Lipushutz)
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Chrome Sparks: Jeremy Malvin (center) gets ready for his set with his touring band. (Photo: Jason Lipushutz)
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This Is What Happens When You Get Named P4K's Best New Music: Trash Talk's Garrett Stevenson, left, and Lee Spielman in front of a police van. (Photo: Jason Lipushutz)