11:50 p.m.: Las Vegas non-DJs Afghan Raiders had kicked off a free, open-whiskey-bar soiree at New York City’s 205 Club earlier in the evening, but three hours later, Michael “Mikey” Francis and Vincent “Beans” Campillo begin their official Thursday-evening CMJ showcase with a crowd of 12—including sound man, bartender and the duo itself—gathered in the back room of Brooklyn’s Trash Bar, a dimly lit watering hole featuring a black-and-red décor, low couches and backseats of cars and assorted guitars, mirrors, ladders and license plates in various states of decay. Atop a table draped in a black cloth rocking the silver spray-painted initials “AR,” synthesizer and laptop spring to life, unleashing an electro-pop torrent as heavy as it is scrappy.
11:53 p.m.: Mere minutes into Allen Ginsberg-sampling opener “Destroyed by Madness,” six members of the now-15-strong audience gravitate toward stage front and begin gyrating wildly. Beans, his sock cap pulled over his face à la Fat Albert’s Dumb Donald, follows suit with head-banging abandon.
11:58 p.m.: Marking the intro to “Solid Gold,” Beans leaps, tambourine in hand, throughout the growing number of people, up into the sound booth and onto nearby couches. By the time he returns to the stage and Mikey’s hypnotic repetition of “What are you waiting for?” kicks in, Beans’ headgear has disappeared, his nascent afro pausing in its whiplash-inducing frenzy only for its owner to swig from an omnipresent PBR can.
12:09 a.m.: Mikey’s punk-inspired lead vocals on the deceptively languid “White Energy” and German-history-inspired “Somehow Stasi Found Me Out” have now drawn in 19 uninhibited dancers. He crouches forward, one leg on an equipment case, his upper body striking downward like a hammer in time with his partner.
12:17 a.m.: “We’re gonna see if we can pull off the full version here,” Mikey cautions as 22 revelers go impressively batshit for apocalyptic closer “Future Thinkers.” With the song’s final breakdown sputtering out like a defeated video game, Beans glances around the room and grins. His tambourine may be resting on his curls like a lopsided laurel wreath, but musically, as he and Mikey confirm afterward, the two pulled off a straight-ahead victory.