Tonight’s CMJ theme – at least at the shows I saw – seemed to be ‘amazing artists playing to far too small of an audience.’ Both Frankie & The Heartstrings and Chapel Club made their New York debut at Littlefield in Brooklyn, while over at the Popjustice/High Rise showcase at the Bell House, also in Brooklyn, some bands didn’t even get a chance to play. Frankie & The Heartstrings launched into their set at Littlefield with little preamble. The crowd was small (think 20-30 people) but receptive to the Wichita-signed band, and lead singer Frankie Francis made use of the extra space around the front of the stage by performing from there. It was an intimate set, but the band managed to keep a sense of raucous excitement. Their set included songs like ‘Tender’ and ‘Don’t Look Surprised.’ Afterwards Francis said that they give their all in every show, regardless of how many people are there, which was true in this case, between his dancing and jumping around as he sang and the band’s musicianship. Chapel Club played a couple bands later and had a similar sized crowd as Frankie & The Heartstrings, which was a bit of a shame, because they’re really great and played a good set, despite some sound issues. Frontman Lewis Bowman doesn’t perform in the sense of moving about like Francis, but the set retained a sense of enthusiasm simply from the songs. ‘All the Eastern Girls’ was given some additional depth with the live show treatment, while Bowman’s vocals were solid throughout. Other highlights were ‘The Shore’ and ‘O Maybe I.’ Expect more reviews of Chapel Club in the next couple days. The Popjustice/High Rise showcase meanwhile was way behind schedule. I’m not sure when it got that far behind, but while it seemed good initially because it meant Samuel played later than expected and didn’t conflict with Chapel Club, the delays ended up leading to disappointment. Samuel was a highlight though and the venue was still somewhat crowded when he performed. He’s New York-based and is making great pop music, like his song ‘I Heart NY,’ which was really, really good tonight, even if naturally lacking some sleekness of the recorded version. He was backed by a band that included a violin player and his pop music was done quite well. Following some DJing was Natalia Kills, who ended up being the final performer of the night. The crowd thinned out a bit and after those left were encouraged to fill in the gaps surrounding the front of the stage, Natalia came out to put on a pop show. During her set she was flanked by two dancers doing choreographed routines and played songs like ‘Zombie’ and ‘Love is a Suicide.’ This performance aspect to pop music signalled another moment where the Popjustice influence of the night – the top five billed, with exception to special guest Class Actress, are all bands the site has written about – was clearly evident. From there it was expected that between bouts of DJing there’d be Canadian trio Parallels, English quartet Fenech-Soler and finally Brooklyn’s Class Actress. That did not occur. The showcase was signalled as over when the DJ music stopped and the lights came on. These things occur sometimes, but it was unfortunate. Coming tomorrow: More reviews, perhaps a longer one on Chapel Club. Until then, check out the bands reviewed from tonight: http://www.myspace.com/frankietheheartstrings http://www.myspace.com/chapelclub http://www.myspace.com/samuelmusicnyc http://www.myspace.com/nataliakills