If the CMJ Music Marathon were explained to a teenager or a college friend that never gave up the party—it’s a week of music showcases infiltrating nearly every venue from Manhattan to Brooklyn with the occasional promise of free pizza or free rum or some tote of knick-knacks—they’d probably respond with some positive variation of “sounds rad.” Ask someone in the music industry about CMJ Music Marathon and witness the hollow deadening in the eyes, the expressionless visage, as all the nightmares return.
The following collection of testimonials is a staff wide effort, from the editorial brass to the gofer-intern. In the general consensus of our collective travels around CMJ no one experience is alike, and quite often, you find that.
Katie Capri, Editor
The cavalcade of free shit at Silent Barn:
First free pizza on Tuesday at Gingercore’s Anti-CMJ show. Then free karaoke between sets at Conscious Coupling on Thursday. But really, the close to free, pay-what-you-want hair cuts from Brandon Perry. You never knew how much you needed a haircut until you can pay $1 for one between sets.
TONSTARTSSBANDHT’s Alligator King Rock at Shea:
This Tuesday was the first time i managed to see TONSTARTSSBANDHT
and I definitely didn’t predict the power and immediacy that Andy White could produce with those bayou banger riffs wailing out of his 12-string Danelectro live. It was an explosive but heart warming experience for a rainy rainy night.
Grass is Green at Exploding in Sound’s third birthday:
Last time I saw them was at David Blaine’s Magic Steakhouse this spring. There is something to be said of supply and demand in the world of concert going. Demand for Grass is Green was high for their set on Saturday and they gave everyone in the audience an awesome roi.
Liz Pelly, Editor
The most tangible things I got out of CMJ 2014 were a raspy voice, a painful cough, and a big blister on my pointer finger from popping open Tecates all weekend. (Most of my past four days were spent working marathon shifts behind the bar at the Silent Barn.) A close runner up was the palpable energy I could feel on Friday night at the Father/Daughter + Miscreant Records showcase, the ripples of boundless excitement bouncing around after inspired sets by Mitski, Jawbreaker Reunion, and Girlpool. I forgot it was CMJ at all, which is a good thing. I think the special issue of the Miscreant zine released in conjunction with the show is the best sort of thing that can come of a tired, hollow industry tradition like CMJ. It’s contributions are all by bands who played the showcase, artist-on-artist interviews, playlists, personal essays. It reeks of community, people who care, and sincerity in the greatest way—much like the showcase itself did. I read Mitski’s “27 Bad Survival Tips for Artists” with my jaw dropped the entire time. There is a Nicholas Nicholas paper doll. Steph from Adult Mom contributed a break-up playlist that I’d like on my computer stat. It’s a true object of lore that will be in my zine collection forever.
I left the Barn for two sets this week. One was a daytime Girlpool set on the Lower East Side (because I was acknowledging this in all-caps as “GIRLPOOL IN NYC” week more than I was acknowledging this as CMJ). Girlpool live is everything I’d hope for and more; Cleo and Harmony perform with immense presence. The second time was to see R.L. Kelly at the Orchid Tapes showcase. Watching “You’re Not the Only Monster From Hell” amped up with a full band was unreal. R.L. Kelly is usually the intimate, feelings-heavy songwriting project of Rachel Livy, but for this show she played with a super group—Harmony and Cleo of Girlpool on guitar and bass and Nicole from Slutever on drums. The band had never actually practiced together, and you could kind of tell, but it was also powerful and beautiful to watch the songs evolve in real time.
Kerri O’Malley, Staff Writer
Bathing in the absolute joy and drunk merriment of all of my Impose favorites and best friends at our Thursday night showcase at Palisades.
Dancing to “Pony” and TLC and all the other awesome 90s tracks the venue played after our showcase to try to get everyone to leave (?). But that actually just resulted in an amazing dance party with all the best stragglers.
Listening to Foxes in Fiction fill the dark, open space of what will one day be a BBQ joint on Starr at the Orchid Tapes showcase. Their vibe and sound was the perfect, life-affirming soundtrack to the slowly erasing hangover that was stuck in my brain at that point (and really never left).
Eric Phipps, Photo Editor
By Saturday evening, after nearly a week of photographing bands, talking about bands, talking to bands, I was happy to know I could catch one I’d never even heard of and still get excited enough to experience that giddy, hyper, “Oh my God, this right here in front of me is amazing and everything I love about live music” feeling. Last year it was Hookworms, but this year it’s Sex Jams. You probably didn’t see this band at CMJ and that’s totally fine, but this is your heads up; the next time the amazing Austrians are in your town, YOU. GO. SEE. THEM.
Seeing bands live you have only heard on record and discovering that they’re great performers as well as great people. Girlpool is wonderful. I saw them three times over CMJ and even by the end of a hectic performance schedule they were still crisp and clean in their final Cakeshop show. I fell in love with new song “Emily” the first night I heard it and getting to hear it two more times was wonderful, I can’t wait for everyone else to hear it too.
Seeing other people’s excitement at playing CMJ for the first time. I loved Jawbreaker Reunion’s project when I stumbled on it’s Bandcamp page but I wasn’t ready to be overwhelmed by watching this young band (half with underage Xs on their hands) play their poppy, trashy angry twee punk Throughout their performance they blushed and smiled and kept it hella posi. A great addition to an already great bill. They’re great and they played a new song called “Patches” which is on a forthcoming comp and hopefully you’ll dig it as much as I did.
— CAKE SHOP NYC (@CakeShopNYC) October 25, 2014
NEGATIVE SCANNER. If a venue tells you to ignore their day show to go see another act that’s generally a good indicator of quality. Negative Scanner is amazing and their album is coming out soon. I will talk about this band until my raw, bloody throat collapses in protest.
Tweens continue to rule. Protomartyr’s free set at Cakeshop was a blast as was the post show conversation about celebrity vanity musical projects. Miscreant & Father Daughter’s Conscious Coupling may be the best nine hours I spent in a single venue. Impose Magazine throws bomb fucking parties; Himanshu’s set was great; Chris Gerhard turned a heckler into a part of the act to the point that the heckler got uncomfortable and fled; showed Open Mike Eagle the greatest finisher in wrestling. Hanging out with people you only get to see at CMJ.
James Johnson, Contributor
Busta Rhymes introducing O.T. Genasis like a proud dad at Webster Hall
My Minnesotan, non-hip-hop-listening roommate falling in love with Homeboy Sandman after the Impose Showcase at Palisades.
Denzel Curry’s mosh pit that lasted practically the entire set.
Derek Evers, Founder
Only two names you need to remember from CMJ are Malportado Kids and Princess Nokia.
Edwina Hay, Photo Editor
I mainly concentrated on seeing acts that are not local.
Sex Jams (Vienna, Austria) @ Cake Shop (Saturday, October 24).
Although we posted their tape, I was not fully prepared for what their live show would be like. Sex Jams’ singer Katie Trenk was full of energy, not keeping still (except for the few seconds she sat on a bench next to a concertgoer while singing). The entire band performed an extremely tight set and during the final song, it essentially devolved into chaos. Hands down, the most exciting live performance I’ve seen from a band I was unfamiliar with in a long time. Once they were done, I immediately bought their tape, Hits, and a t-shirt.
Protomartyr (Detroit, MI) @ Death by Audio (Friday, October 23) and Cake Shop (Saturday, October 24).
Although the first performance I caught by Protomartyr during CMJ at Death by Audio wasn’t an official CMJ showcase, it was a pretty great one. The underage kids up front started a moshpit, which was unexpected and memorable on its own. Then the band did another stellar performance at Cake Shop the very next day for free.
Girlpool (Los Angeles, CA) @ Cake Shop (Saturday, October 25).
I caught Girlpool at Death by Audio when they came to town with Slutever and the only CMJ set I caught was on the final day at Cake Shop. They were on first and I truly wish more people were at the Old Flame Records & Dirty Laundry TV showcase to see their performance. From the first few notes of “Blah Blah Blah,” it felt like this duo will become a very big deal and deservedly so.
Tweens (Cincinnati, OH) @ Arlene’s Grocery (Wednesday, October 22), Death by Audio (Wednesday, October 22), and Baby’s All Right (Friday, October 24).
I was honestly planning on seeing Tweens only once during CMJ. But then I saw them live at Arlene’s Grocery and couldn’t get songs like “Hardcore Boy,” “Be Mean,” and “Forever,” out of my head which made me want to see them again. So I did again and again and they were just as excellent and fun that second and third time. After their final CMJ set, Bridget Battle declared she was pooped but you honestly couldn’t tell, nor fault her for being so damn tired after giving seemingly her all on stage on multiple days.
Princess Nokia (New York, NY) @ Palisades (Thursday, October 23):
It feels like a cop out to mention an artist that performed at the Impose CMJ showcase but Princess Nokia was that memorable. It was only my second time seeing her perform live but she commanded everyone’s attention, encouraged girls to come up front and dance and was just a stellar performer. All artists and comedians on the bill were great but she definitely stood out.
Honorable mentions: Chris Gethard @ Palisades (Thursday, October 23), Negative Scanner (Chicago, IL) @ Rough Trade NYC (Saturday, October 25), Amanda X (Philadelphia, PA) @ Cameo (Tuesday, October 21).
Jake Saunders, Intern
My first CMJ has certainly been an eye opener. There were a lot of good moments, but most of those moments I could’ve experienced at any show, any time of year. In fact, I found myself seeking out the bands I knew I would love rather than actively pursuing the many CMJ buzz bands. I did have some great moments though, and the majority of those moments were at unofficial CMJ shows, and mostly at The Silent Barn.
My first evening of CMJ ended up being a doozy, with four great bands in a row at two different venues. Sediment Club. Guerrilla Toss. Celestial Shore. Roomrunner. Oh it was glorious, I was still ecstatic from the rush that Guerrilla Toss induces as I ran from Silent Barn into Palisades to catch the end of Celestial Shore’s set. Roomrunner topped the night off with a grungtastic set and soon after when Mac Kelly (of Big Neck Police) gave me the CMJ quote of the week: “CMJ? More like stay at home and smoke a J.” Priceless.
There were a few surprises now and again, one came from a band called Advertising. I showed up way too early for a show at some new spot called The Shop—soon to be Bushwick’s next overpriced bar/restaurant/venue—where I arrived just as Advertising started their set; they blew me away with this pumped up version of no-wave influenced noise rock. The songs are intricate, surprisingly large, and solemn in nature, experimenting with improvisation and strange ethereal textures.
Other highlights included the 1.21 Gigawatts issue release at some warehouse spot called Hot 97.4, where I was glad that at least one CMJ show was happening in a warehouse. The Miscreant and Father/Daughter show at Silent Barn the day before was also amazing. Mitski, whose album I’m sure is going to blow us all away, played an intensely heart warming set; sing alongs were had, emotions were felt, some tears may have been shed. Exploding in Sound on Saturday (also at The Silent Barn) was easily the best time I’d had the entire week. Rick from Pile played a sick solo set, Ovlov killed it as always, and I got to pop my cherry with Kal Marks and Grass is Green, who is now one of my new favorite bands.
Unfortunately I left before being able to see Two Inch Astronaut and Krill, but it was because I had to go catch the Letter Racer/Mass Appeal showcase at Trans Pecos where Show Me the Body were opening for Denzel Curry and Ratking. This was easily the craziest thing I had done all week. Ratking’s fan base goes crazy when they play and Show Me the Body’s set get’s rowdier every time I see them; I haven’t been in a pit that crazy since Death Grips. The place was stuffed to the brim, definitely at an illegal capacity. Even after they stopped letting in people who RSVP’d, I couldn’t believe how many were packed in to the tiny spot.
I’d say that I used this week mostly as an excuse to see all the bands I’ve been meaning to see for a while (even if most of those bands are from Brooklyn). I have so much respect for bands who don’t feel like they need CMJ to succeed or feel fulfilled as a band, but I have just as much respect for bands who put that hustle in, playing two shows a day, breaking their backs to show people what they’re made of.
Blake Gillespie, Managing Editor
There’s a great deal of mums-the-word surrounding Godmode’s golden discovery, Shamir. Rightfully so. The label has assembled the Godmode All-Stars backing band to bring his Northtown EP to life and while it’s an inspiring team effort none of it would matter if Shamir were incapable of translating his magnetism to the stage. Babycastles was one of the last remaining intimate gatherings Shamir will get to enjoy. And whether he was aware or not, he left the stage, letting the band do an extended jam out, to hug individuals, thanking them for being there, and stood alone in the back against the wall. He was permitted to remain back there, only approached by more embraces, and zero camera phones or sharpies.
Without fail the question I field upon returning to civilian life post-[insert music industry clusterfuck] is “who did you see that you’re excited about?” I rarely have an answer to that question (though it’s Shamir). The best will always be the gathering of pen pals, correspondents, and old friends in one place. I’m there to put faces to my rolodex and confirm hunches that even without this industry connection, we’d have common ground. This goes out to Ellie Herring (and our talk about David Robinson vs. Charles Barkley), Ellie’s friends (Scott and I’m blanking on the other, sorry), the Hardly Art crew, the coworkers (and former coworkers) that gave me couches and vacant apartments to rest my head, Ari Spool at the door of Babycastles for the no-hassle hand stamp, Derek Evers for the meals and bourbons, my Sacramento friend Lee Bannon and his lady for startling me from my phone in Williamsburg and directing me to the M line, Chris Robbins for directing me to dumplings when I realized I’d been drinking on a day-long empty stomach, Cascine for the office chill session and t-shirt gifts for my girlfriend so I didn’t go home empty handed, and to the Impose staff for always making our showcases a gathering of friends rather than employees.
Eric Phipps, Editor
The Ebola “Scare.” I’m not worried about Ebola because I’m not in the habit of touching other people’s bodily fluids (you should see the freak out when someone tries to hug me). I’m far more concerned about weaponized buzz bands sent to CMJ to bore us to death thanks to collusion through blogs, pr companies, and liquor merchants. Stop the Industrial Blogrock Complex.
My diet. I ate more things out of corn tortillas in the past four days than I have in the preceding nine months. Wednesday every meal involved corn chips. I’m not proud.
Braving a torrential downpour to attend a renegade CMJ party that gets shut down by the cops. “You can leave peacefully and we’ll let you all go, or you can keep having your party and we’ll arrest everyone.” Sorry, dudes, it’s like Day 2 of CMJ and I still have hearing in my left ear, so I gotta go.
Katie Capri, Editor
The crowd talking over Tops at Shea Stadium:
Part of Shea’s awesome space is the house party vibe but that sometimes means the din can veer into social gathering instead of live performance. With the rain cutting off the balcony for chit-chat, Tops’ jazzy side got out paced a bit in that crowded room.
…I am not the liver I used to be.
Blake Gillespie, Managing Editor
I let myself down by not going to DBA once, despite it being my last chance to do so. My memories remain in 2008.
Beyond my shortcomings, the worst is going to very little and feeling complacent that I missed nothing.
James Johnson, Contributor
Missing D.R.A.M.’s set at Webster because I was busy eating a tuna melt.
Kerri O’Malley, Staff Writer
Worst ones? Why bother? Feel like it’s so easy to see. But here’s two:
The lack of dancing at the Orchid Tapes Showcase and pretty much every non-Impose show I saw. Booooo.
Not being able to be hungover around a single person in Brooklyn without feeling judged. Fuck off.