It’s a line-up to rival some of the best indie fests out there – The Walkmen, The Mountain Goats, Kimbra, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Asher Roth, Dum Dum Girls, AraabMUZIK, Savages, OFF!, Sky Ferreira, Killer Mike, King Tuff, Eleanor Friedberger, Q-Tip, Theophilus London and my personal best-named-band, Com Truise. Over five non-stop days and nights, the CMJ Music Marathon, infiltrates New York City with over 1 300 artist performances, filling more than 80 of the city’s venues. Add on to that a host of panels, seminars, mixers and meet ‘n greets…and well, you know, it gets all-consuming.
As the country hurtles towards electing, or re-electing, a president, a whole host of bands will be vying for the politics-wary souls of music fans. Last year was my first time at CMJ. Thanks to CMJ 2011, I’m a firm fan of the likes of Penguin Prison and We Are Augustines – oh, and a little band called Alabama Shakes.
* Nude pictures of Prince Harry on a jaunt to Las Vegas this weekend have surfaced – cuing a lot of jokes about him displaying his crown jewels. The Palace has not commented about the pics specifically, but it’s been confirmed they definitely are of the prince, third in line to the crown.
And in another piece of unrelated gossip news – Avril Lavigne and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger are engaged. Both are Canadian rockers, who came together to write music, but many still find the pairing surprising.
It’s a good sign of a band’s impact when five days after CMJ began, you’re still humming along to a tune first heard on Day One. 2011′s CMJ, aka College Music Journal’s Music Marathon, has come to an end. As one of New York’s most trusted music events – exposing artists to fans and the music industry alike, it’s a great place to go hunting for great new music. As it turns out, the hunt didn’t require too much effort on this newbie’s part – just a willingness to trek across the city to various music hotspots and an ability to consume one too many whiskeys, all in the name of rock ‘n roll.
Now who would dare complain about that?
Find of Day 1: Penguin Prison Recommended by: my fellow music-and-movie fanatic Stevie Wong Why I’m passing the recommendation on: This electro-indie four-piece from Brooklyn has the beats and the vocals to warrant all the love the audience was giving them in the tightly-packed venue of Dominion. Falsetto choruses, with lyrics about the joys of love (feeling like a Multi-Millionaire) and its perils (Don’t Fuck with My Money), as well as a few Michael Jackson-esque uh’s and umcha’s thrown in, make up this group’s mix. If you like to dance away any cares troubling you in the spheres of love, life and everything else, you’ll love them as much as I now do.
Find of Day 2: We Are Augustines Recommended by: a bit of a fluke, as I happened to have missed Zola Jesus at the KEXP showcase at The Ace Hotel but was in time to catch this band Why I’m passing the recommendation on: The way that lead singer Billy McCarthy sings “as long as my heart keeps pumping blood” has such urgent sincerity to it that you’re compelled to keep listening to everything else he has to sing. When he opens his mouth to let those notes, and all they represent, fall out of his mouth it’s from somewhere so deep inside that you can see his fillings. Clicking on the ‘story’ link of the band’s website, gives some understanding as to where it all comes from. But that’s just one part of this band’s enduring journey. Passion-powered indie rock at its best.
Find of Day 3: Clubfeet Recommended by: my brother, again – he’s two for two! Why I’m passing the recommendation on: Clubfeet is made up of five Australians (one who was born in South Africa), who swing from singing frivolous and funky choruses like “hold your hand up to mine, count your lovers from one to nine”, to the more ernest “teenage suicide, don’t do it”, and still sound just as good in both instances. Indie-inflected dance music, which, just as their tagline states, can be enjoyed just as much at night-time as it can in the day-time (although it does help if one is in a darkened club during said day).
Find of Day 4: Boy & Bear Recommended by: Universal Republic’s Natalie Hapgood Why I’m passing the recommendation on: This one happens to be another Australian act, but it’s also another goodie. The band plays a brand of folk rock that’s more rock than folk but has touches of Mumford&Sons and Crosby, Stills, Nash&Young in there too. They also do a gorgeous rendition of Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet. But in the story of Boy & Bear, that’s just an added bonus.
Find of Day 5: Gotye Recommended by: I knew about this Aussie wunderkind before, but my Oz-based, in-the-music-know friend Brett Schwepps had alerted me to his NY gigs during CMJ Why I’m passing the recommendation on: If you haven’t been hooked onto the genius that is the multi-skilled Belgium-Australian musician Wouter “Wally” De Backer, who goes by the moniker of Gotye, then this is your last chance for redemption. His single Somebody That I Used to Know has been flying high on the Billboard charts, but that’s not the reason why you need to know him. It’s the layers that he weaves into his music and his stage show, which come together to help create a fresh take on pop – glockenspiel and all.
Acts I Didn’t See But Have Noted Down Their Future Gigs (and You Should Too):
There’s a feast of music on offer here in NYC all the time, but the CMJ music festival has become known for reliably spotlighting emerging talent that’s about to blow up (did someone say Lady Gaga?), or at the very least, showcasing talent that deserves attention. Every year, CMJ takes over 75 venues in the city, offering up performances from over a thousand indie and up-and-coming bands.
I am thrilled at the prospect of going to my first CMJ. Daunted, too, at the thought that there are more artists playing at this year’s event that I could ever possibly see. So I am relying on hints and tips from friends who’ve dived this stage before, plus this search page that CMJ and Plus Music created that offers recommendations based on similar artists, genres and keywords and listening history.
Oh, and I added the new Plus Music plug-in to my Chrome browser – so I’m sorted!
It may be my first time at CMJ, but I have a recommendation of my own to make. Head out to the Highline Ballroom on Wednesday night to see The Parlotones. If you haven’t heard of the group before, they’re a melodic indie-rock band that has worked its way from being a little-known fan favourite to crafting songs that have become the soundtrack to many South Africans’ lives.