CMJ Music Marathon is exactly that, a true-to-title music marathon. For 5 whole days badge owners had free reign of Manhattan and Brooklyn to explore the plethora of up-and-coming music from around the world in venues ranging from Terminal 5 to the intimate Cakeshop.
What makes CMJ different then most of the festivals we generally cover here at Festival Snobs is that the selling point isn’t the big name acts. CMJ is a time for live music fanatics to explore “the next big thing in a few years”.
I kicked off my CMJ week with a special Panda Bear show at the Bowery Ballroom. Fellow Animal Collective member, Deakin, started the night with a fun DJ set that would have been the perfect segue into Panda Bears set. Between the Animal Collective members was the band PC Worship. I don’t want to say they were bad, but they weren’t good, nor the right musical aesthetic for the evening but that’s the fun game of roulette with CMJ. Panda Bear started and everyone in the room became spellbound. His bass was hard hitting, his melodies were as hypnotic as ever. For 75 minutes he had the crowd wrapped around his trippy little finger and it was a reality check when the house lights turned on at the end of the evening.
Wednesday had a bit of a buzz about it, Neon Indian was about to premier a new live show at Webster Hall for CMJ. I decided to post up at Webster for the night and bounce around floors seeing the other bands performing at the different CMJ showcases being put on. Black Panda PR had an intriguing lineup in The Marlin Room with new CMJ discoveries, Tribe Society and the synth-poppy Secret Weapons. Both, being really fun to hear and see for the first time in a live setting. Upstairs in The Grand Ballroom, Alan Palomo better known as Neon Indian was making his return to the stage to perform songs off of the new album, Vega Intl. Night School. His new stage setup was immersive and interactive and a welcomed use of technology that worked beautifully with theme Alan has built for himself over time. After a 4-year hiatus, it is great to have Neon Indian back.
Day three I started at Brooklyn Bowl to see CMJ returnee, Oscar Scheller. Last year I had a great time seeing him at a CMJ 2014 kickoff showcase, so his return was welcomed. This year Oscar put on one of my favorite sets of the week with his lo-fi pop rock feel. His single, Daffodil Days, will be perfect for a hot daytime set at any festival in summer 2016. After Oscar ended I ran over to Rough Trade NYC where I caught the tail end of English rocker babes, The Big Moon. Their badass aura, NYC appreciation and “Beautiful Stranger” Madonna cover easily won me over. Up next was Georgia. She is a one woman-drumming machine with insanely catchy electronic beats. I had seen her open earlier this summer for Hot Chip so her set was highly anticipated for me. Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts and going on a little late I was only able to see her first song, Digits. Seriously, check out her self-titled album, Rough Trade named it Album of the Month in August. It will be fun to see her rise through the festival circuit in 2016.
Honestly, CMJ is such a marathon that with working a full-time job during the entirety I needed to take Friday off for my mental sanity. I was sad to hear I missed Thunderbitch (Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes) and the annual FaderFort who happened to have surprise guest Skrillex close out the evening’s party. My bed and Netflix was my own personal CMJ Festival Snobs showcase for one.
Saturday started at Baby’s All Right for the Brooklyn Vegan Showcase. I made it just in time to catch the The So So Glos. The punk rock Brooklyn band was the perfect candidate for such a showcase and had the place rocking as hard as they were. After they ended a slice of Joes Pizza was a necessity and it was everything I needed. With a full stomach I hopped on the M to spend the rest of the evening in the Lower East Side at Pianos for the Pancakes & Whiskey showcase. The people at P&W are good friends of mine with great taste in music so, obviously. The band, Outfit all the way from Liverpool were the perfect electro-pop set that at the upstairs of Pianos dancing their whole set. The Big Moon, who I had seen earlier in the week were a surprise set and so it was great to see those ladies shining friendship while performing again. LA electro-soul duo Smoke Season was up next and closing out my CMJ. Gabrielle Wortman and Jason Rosen are two of the nicest people so it couldn’t have planned the finale any better. Having sat down and recorded a podcast with them a few weeks prior it was great to finally see them live. Gabby had complete control of the crowd with her dance moves and powerful voice. I finished out my CMJ singing their song Bees the entire way home on the subway.
If you’re interested in a SXSW-type festival experience but don’t want to deal with those crowds CMJ Music Marathon is for you. CMJ allows for fans to delve into the music of so many emerging performers, experience some amazing intimate shows from well-established DIY artists all while exploring the best city in the world. After 5 days of craziness and fun, I’d say the 35th year of CMJ was a major success for everyone involved.
Check out our full photo album below. All photographs © Dana Pacifico for FestivalSnobs.com.