Around this time every year, thousands
of the music industry’s biggest wigs flock to New York for four
days and nights to see hundreds of the hottest new bands. It’s
called the CMJ Music Marathon, and like the Sundance Film Festival
is for actors and directors, CMJ is where many up-and-coming
musicians get the chance to be noticed and move from the minor
leagues into the majors.
From Sept. 1316, the rocking ’n’ rolling and the wheeling ’n’ dealing won’t just be taking place in the dark and smoky clubs of the Village and the Lower East Side, but also in those of Williamsburg.
In 1999, the CMJ Music Marathon was freed from the island confines of Manhattan and was allowed to cross the East River into the then-uncharted territory of Brooklyn. This year, CMJ in Brooklyn will be bigger than ever, with twice as many venues and twice as many bands as last year.
"It’s no surprise that after the success that the 2000 CMJ Music Marathon had in Brooklyn that this year it would grow even further," explained CMJ staffer Dan Efram. "Williamsburg has taken over the East Village’s hip cachet quotient and the spaces that have been obtained are excellent, so the quality of the venue is very high."
Over 60 bands will be performing in Williamsburg during the festival this year, and as it is only four nights long, all you hipsters and club-goers will need to plan ahead if you want to catch the best of what the festival has to offer. While the complete list of venues and performers can be found on the Web (at www.cmj.co
On Thursday night, Galapagos (70 North Sixth St., between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue, (718) 782-5188) will play host to the Tiger Style/ Pacifico showcase. Pacifico, an indie-label from Washington, will be presenting four bands from their stable: Come Down taking the stage at 8 pm, Automaton at 9 pm, FCS North at 10 pm and Kinski at 11 pm.
FCS North and Kinski are two bands that have been generating a lot of buzz, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Consisting of former members of the electro-punk band Satisfact, FCS North (pronounced "focus north") are a trio who utilize samples and programming, as well as guitars, drums and bass to meld techno and rock into a single, cohesive entity. Seattle’s Kinski compose moody instrumental walls of sound that bring to mind Mogwai, Yo La Tengo and "Daydream Nation"-era Sonic Youth.
Tiger Style, the NYC-based record label associated with the online music store www.insound.com, is responsible for putting out some of the best indie music in recent years, such as Tristeza and The Mercury Program, and at midnight on Sept. 13, Tiger Style will present Karla Schickele’s (Ida) side project, k. With k., Schickele steps to the fore and shows that not only can she play the bass and sing harmony, but she is also quite a good songwriter and frontwoman. Her songs tend to be a little more light-hearted and diverse than those of Ida, although with collaborators Dan and Michael Littleton, Elizabeth Mitchell and Tara Jane O’Neil helping out, k. will almost certainly appeal to Ida fans.
If you’re not into the show at Galapagos, why not check out the over-stuffed bill Thursday night at Luxx (256 Grand St., between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street, (718) 599-1000), which will feature bands on the Animal World and Gern Blandsten labels? Snails will kick it off at 8 pm, with Moneen going on at 8:45 pm, Monotract at 9:30 pm, The Rock Coaches at 10:15 pm, The Holy Childhood at 11 pm and Rye Coalition coming on at midnight.
Florida’s Monotract are not your ordinary rock band by any stretch of the imagination. Guitarist Carlos Giffoni is an avant-gardist who has recently collaborated with the likes of Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo and Nels Cline. Live, Monotract’s set ranges from somewhat noisy structured songs to larger, electronic experimentation. Jersey City’s Rye Coalition, on the other hand, is all about the rock. Often compared with Fugazi because of their intense vocals and the Jesus Lizard because of their razor-sharp guitar hooks, Rye Coalition play with a full-force, take-no-prisoners attitude.
Friday night, the show to catch is the Arena Rock Showcase at the North Six (66 North Sixth St., between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue). Greenpoint’s own Arena Rock will have the home-field advantage when they present five of their own: Serene at 8 pm, The Boggs at 9 pm, The Birdwatcher at 10 pm, Mink Lungs at 11 pm and Superdrag at midnight.
The Boggs kick it old school with their own style of acoustic Appalachian bluegrass, while The Birdwatcher (Dan Matz of Windsor For The Derby) plays low-key rock.
With each of the four members taking turns at singing and songwriting, The Mink Lungs are not easily pigeonholed. They tend not to have one distinct sound, not unlike Sebadoh; ranging from sweet, lo-fi pop on one song to frenzied noise-rock on the next. And they are starting to make a name for themselves, not only for their music, but also for their imaginative and energetic live shows.
Those club-goers looking for something a little more straightforward should enjoy Superdrag. This Knoxville four-piece have been playing melodic rock in the vein of Big Star or Teenage Fanclub since 1993, and having recently released a new album, they are still very much on top of their game.
If you’re still in the mood for live music by Saturday night, head back to the North Six to catch the Kill Rock Stars showcase. KRS, based in Olympia, Wash., is well known in the indie world for releasing punk rock records by such Northwest legends as Bikini Kill and Unwound. For this year’s CMJ, KRS brings out their freshest crop of new bands, with Har Mar Superstar kicking it off at 8 pm, C Average at 9 pm, Slumber Party at 10 pm and The Bangs at 11 pm.
For sheer entertainment value alone, Har Mar Superstar is a must see. Har Mar, who is Sean Na-Na’s Sean Martin Tillman and/or his brother Harold, kick out raunchy electro-pop/R&B grooves, like some sort of demented NSYNC or Backstreet Boys for the indie set. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Har Mar is for real or a joke, but either way, it’s hilariously fun and incredibly infectious (perhaps even more than one would like).
The music of Detroit’s Slumber Party sounds like their name - not the raucous underwear-clad pillow fight type of sleepover, but the kind where girls in flannel nightgowns do each other’s hair, talk awhile about boys and then fall asleep before midnight. Slumber Party play lush, quiet and moody, like a slightly more upbeat Galaxie 500 or The Go-Go’s on sleeping pills. The Bangs, on the other hand, play catchy punk fast and loud, like The Donna’s or Sleater-Kinney.
So run out right now and stock up on earplugs, Visine and Red Bull, because if you are planning on doing CMJ right, you’re going to need them.
The CMJ Music Marathon runs Sept. 1316
at various Williamsburg venues. For a complete list of venues
and performers visit the Web site at www.cmj.co