Tag Archives: CMJ Music Marathon


The Bar Is Set High on the First Night of CMJ Music Marathon

October 16th, 2013

NONONO/Panama Wedding/Mystery Skulls – Mercury Lounge – October 15, 2013

Mercury Lounge was bursting at the seams last night, the first night of CMJ Music Marathon 2013, for a highly anticipated sold-out show with three viral, enigmatic acts—NONONO, Panama Wedding and Mystery Skulls—that sent my standard for live music through the roof. Mystery Skulls (aka Luis Dubuc) took the stage solo. His sound is best described as electronic dance music mixed with funk. Purposeful lyrics and smooth vocals accompany bold beats, and the result is infectious. I danced the entire time Dubuc was casually chatting and dropping beats.

Afterward, a gaggle of people flooded the tiny stage for Panama Wedding’s set. They’ve only released one excellent song, “All of the People,” prior to playing a slew of CMJ showcases. Needless to say, everyone was curious to hear how this performance would unfold. The band played a short, tight set that I could listen to again and again. Panama Wedding’s poppy sound is distinctly uplifting. Pointed lyrics anchor the bubbly beats to create a musical fairytale.

NONONO swiftly took the stage and launched into their very first live set in North America with a triumphant opening song we hadn’t heard yet. The Swedish trio’s defiant music fits perfectly in a live setting. Frontwoman Stina Wappling’s vocals swooped and soared atop Astma & Rocwell’s masterful arrangements. The set consisted of the entirety of the band’s EP and some songs to be released on their upcoming full-length album. Wappling giggled and said, “Hey ho, let’s go! This is our first single!” before the trio wrapped up their set with “Pumpin Blood.” I’m positive NONONO will be playing to arena audiences in the not-too-distant future, and I’m glad I caught them up close and personal. Seeing NONONO live: highly recommended. —Schuyler Rooth


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Real Estate on 10/17

October 15th, 2013


Popular New Jersey quintet Real Estate play The Bowery Ballroom on Thursday night. And despite all the craziness involved with this week’s CMJ Music Marathon, the show sold out quickly. But The House List just so happens to be giving away two tickets. So if you’d like to Grow a Pair of them for a free night out, just complete the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Real Estate, 10/17) and a brief message explaining which band playing a CMJ you’re most excited to see. Eddie Bruiser, who lives for this week, will notify the winner by Thursday. Good luck.

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Two Nights of Savages Next Week

March 14th, 2013

The post-punk quartet Savages—Jehnny Beth (vocals), Ayse Hassan (bass), Fay Milton (drums) and Gemma Thompson (guitar)—have only been together for little more than a year. But their blistering guitar-fueled sound, “indestructible and musically solid, written for the stage, designed with enough nuances to provide a wide range of emotions,” drew the four ladies from London plenty of attention during last year’s CMJ Music Marathon. Find out why when Savages (above, doing “Husbands” on Later … with Jools Holland) play The Bowery Ballroom on Monday and Music Hall of Williamsburg on Tuesday.


Mumford & Sons Soar in Brooklyn

February 13th, 2013

Mumford & Sons – Barclays Center – February 12, 2013

(Photo: Joe Papeo)

Mumford & Sons began to break in the United States with a run of shows during the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon, including a memorably half-full show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. How little we all knew then. A few months later they appeared on our TVs at the Grammy Awards. Last night, in their second grand return to the borough in as many weeks, this time on the heels of their Grammy win for Album of the Year, the four-piece Mumford & Sons, the band that launched a thousand banjos, took the stage at a sold-out Barclays Center. As the curtain whipped away, the band launched into “Babel,” a song that bears at least nominal reference to the moment in Biblical history when man was unified and spoke a common language.

And it was in this temple of unity, the Barclays Center, the big tent of eminent domain and gentrification, microbrewed beers, suspenders and beards, that Mumford opened with a string of songs off their recent Grammy-winning album, Babel. After the band soared through the album’s title track, they moved on to “I Will Wait,” “Winter Winds,” a first-album favorite, and “Below My Feet.” It was equal parts elegy and ebullience as the general-admission floor alternated between silence and carbonated bouncing, and the sections near the rafters produced reverence and reverie. This, of course, marked the brilliance and mainstream appeal of Mumford: to package the unremembered kitsch and nostalgia of folk melodies with explosive, life-affirming moments of musical elevation. The quartet then switched between the collective, quiet appeal of “Timshel” and the unstoppable, “Little Lion Man,” which first launched this band into the hearts and minds of many of these assembled thousands.

The middle of the set was highlighted by “Lover of the Light,” which sounds a great deal like a sustainably raised, NPR-listening Dave Matthews Band song in its latter half, and comprised both elements of the somber and the celebratory—its final banjo line and lyrics transformed into the screaming marching orders. The main set closed with “Whispers in the Dark” and “Dust Bowl Dance,” the former a song with which the band closed their 2009 Music Hall performance. It was then unrecorded: “Something from the next album,” they said that night. But last night, things were in sharper focus, the benefit of time and perspective. “Whispers” was the second track off a hit album, its edict of “live while we’re young” repeated and screamed back from a basketball arena of adoring fans. It was about unity to be sure, a moment of mass collective experience before the band receded into the darkness of stage left and the empire built on a tower of four-part harmonies and emotive evocation. It wasn’t a night about prayer, a common complaint about the band, but it was about rebuilding the temple and speaking in one voice. —Geoff Nelson

Photo courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com


Influential Label Showcases Talent

October 19th, 2012

Merge Records Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 18, 2012

Mount Moriah (Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

One could argue that no other independent label from the past 20 years has released as many instant classics as Merge Records. After all, they gave the OK for the Magnetic Fields to put out a three-album collection of 69 love songs, they introduced bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire to the world and they gave a rock act by the name of Spoon a second chance. So it’s safe to say that Merge is on a bit of a hot streak that might not be cooling off anytime soon. While any given day of the CMJ Music Marathon is a somewhat frantic race to absorb as much great music as possible, last night’s Merge showcase at Mercury Lounge, spanning almost seven hours and six different acts, was something of a cruel temptation and a great excuse for ruining the following workday by staying out past 2 a.m.

“It’s kind of hard to follow your label boss, though I’m sure he’d hate to be called that,” said Eleanor Friedberger, taking the stage after a set from Superchunk frontman and Merge Records cofounder Mac McCaughan. Friedberger played a solo acoustic set with some “in the works” new material that could come out early next year. She was followed by a searing set from Mount Moriah. “We’re Mount Moriah. We’re from Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and we’re really excited to put some records out on Merge,” said lead singer Heather McEntire. The set sampled songs off their self-titled debut, as well as some new tunes from their upcoming album. The band’s sound is familiar yet unique, a strange combination of all genres Americana (blues, rock, country, soul, gospel).

It makes sense that as of September they’re sharing a label with acts like Lambchop, self-proclaimed “Nashville’s most fucked-up country band.” Between Mount Moriah and another recent Merge signee (and show opener), William Tyler, it will be interesting to see if the label can continue to push the boundaries of country music, bringing this strange new iteration of the genre to music fans usually repulsed by the word country. “We’ve been listening to a lot of the Allman Brothers Band—I don’t know if you could tell,” said McEntire after firing through a particularly bluesy-rock new song. You could tell, but this was a very good thing. If the past is any indicator, 2013 should be a huge year for some or even all of these bands. And if the performances last night are any indicator, it probably will be. —Dan Rickershauser


Exorcising Musical Demons

October 17th, 2012

Aquarium Drunkard: No Jacket Required Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 16, 2012

It’s that time of year again, when the weather gets cooler, the leaves start to turn and I somehow deceive myself into thinking I have the willpower to stay away from the candy corn I bought for Halloween. You guessed it—the CMJ Music Marathon is back, and artists from around the world have already begun to descend upon us for the most glorious five days of music New York City has to offer. Here’s what CMJ entails: bands play a slew of shows, trying to squeeze in as many gigs as possible into the short period of time that CMJ runs. In response, venues endeavor to stuff as many sets as possible onto one bill. Bands get onstage, play their 20- to 30-minute set and move on to the next venue. And that can be frustrating; just as you start to warm up to a group you like, they pull the plug and exit the stage as fast as possible.

But at Aquarium Drunkard’s No Jacket Required showcase last night at Mercury Lounge, Foxygen found a way to skirt the rules. After a solid set by Calvin Love, the talented solo act from Edmonton, Alta., Foxygen set up their equipment in a flash and hit the stage a full 15 minutes before their slotted set time. That eagerness epitomizes their energetic showmanship: If their most recent record, Take the Kids Off Broadway, sounds like a shaken-up bottle of soda ready to explode, their live show is what happens when someone finally unscrews the cap. Sonically, they resemble your dad’s favorite classic-rock compilation but reinterpreted in a highly frenetic, almost hardcore vein. It’s incredibly familiar while being undeniably fresh, and it came together perfectly in the intimate setting.

Lead singer Sam France’s mania emanated throughout the venue—he screamed, gestured and shook as if he had been possessed by some sort of rock and roll demon. At one point he asked, “Is it satanic?” about New York City. And judging by how riled up everyone was, it very well might have been. His band and the enraptured audience fed off of each other, and even stage banter received hearty applause and various yips from appreciative concertgoers. By the end of the set, after several full-fledged musical freak-outs, the demon of New York City had apparently been exorcised from France’s body—but I wouldn’t be surprised if it appears again later this week. —Alex Kapelman

(Foxygen play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday, our FREE CMJ show at Pianos on Saturday and Webster Hall on 12/11.)



Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Kimbra on 10/19

October 16th, 2012


While you may have first become aware of New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra performing a duet with Gotye on “Somebody That I Used to Know,” she’s since blown up in a big way. And so when she plays Webster Hall this week, on Friday and Saturday, she’ll do it before a packed house each night. But even if you don’t already have tickets, you’ve still got a chance to see here live because The House List is offering two ducats to Friday’s show. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Kimbra, 10/19) and a brief message explaining what you think the best part of the CMJ Music Marathon is. Eddie Bruiser, who intends to see as many bands as humanly possible, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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CMJ Music Marathon Starts Tomorrow

October 15th, 2012

Here in New York City, it’s the most musical time of the year because the CMJ Music Marathon, tomorrow through Saturday, is upon us (check out a selection of the bands you can see, above): five days and nights jam packed with bands playing in all sorts of places, including those you wouldn’t normally think would have a concert, plus plenty of the usual suspects. The Bowery Ballroom hosts CMJ lineups on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Mercury Lounge welcomes the Aquarium Drunkard: No Jacket Required lineup tomorrow, the Windish Showcase on Wednesday, the Merge Records Showcase on Thursday, a FREE late-night show with Ratking on Friday and the MezzoForte Showcase on Saturday. And, of course, Music Hall of Williamsburg is on in this, too, with the Captured Tracks Showcase on Thursday and the Fat Wreck/Rocks Off Showcase on Friday. And once again we’re throwing our annual day party at Pianos with seven bands downstairs and six upstairs on Saturday. Get involved with a whole day of great tunes plus bloody marys and margaritas.


Windish Agency Bands Play Mercury Lounge

October 24th, 2011

The Windish Agency Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 21, 2011

Friday night of CMJ, with everyone a little worse for wear, found Mercury Lounge as the home to the Windish Agency showcase, although it may as well have been an echo chamber. The reverberated Gauntlet Hair took the stage in the 9 o’clock slot. The latest of the blog-to-label bands, they parlayed a snapping first single, “I Was Thinking” into an album featuring their trademark high-fret guitar-board strums and slamming drums and bass. Looking a bit like kids who might have run around in a fixed-gear bicycle gang at your liberal arts college, the band played material from their self-titled debut LP, including stunners “Keep Time” and “Top Bunk,” like Dirty Projects cuts that got dropped to the bottom of a backyard swimming pool, all glittering guitars and troubling echoes.

Up next the surprisingly charming Teen (good luck searching for them on the Internet), an all-female five-piece, claimed to be three-fifths sisters and 100 percent Canadian. Now playing in and around Brooklyn, the band was dressed to kill, eliciting drunken commentary from some grungy looking guys in the middle of the crowd, which the quintet handled and dismissed with the deftness of a stand-up comedian. Playing a tight set of dream pop, the band felt like one part Stars, one part Wilson Phillips and one part School of Seven Bells. Seeming to build converts with each passing song (the yelling dudes were now loudly proclaiming their love for the lead singer or maybe the bassist or perhaps both), the ladies in their evening wear proved to be the type of pleasant surprise that CMJ still provides.

We Barbarians, with a considerably smaller sound check and a considerably larger sound, took the stage at 11 as the most energetic three-piece of the festival. Trafficking in the kind of sound that might have kept We Are Scientists from getting kicked off Virgin/EMI, We Barbarians opened with the shimmering “Headspace,” full of banging drums and soaring guitars. Lead singer Dave Quon is a force of nature, even on the allegedly more thoughtful tracks of the band’s most recent EP, Headspace. A drummer sweating through his beard and a singer sweating through his shirt aren’t new semiotics in rock music, but there is something in We Barbarians that feels singular, loud and important. The bands would move on, perhaps to the rest of their tours or to even later showcases, and the echoes of the second-to-last evening of another CMJ would ring out without the help of a delay pedal. —Geoff Nelson


Sub Pop Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 20, 2011

October 21st, 2011

J. Mascis

Photos courtesy of Ahron R. Foster | www.ahronfoster.com


Two Bands You Shouldn’t Miss

October 21st, 2011

High Road Touring Showcase – The Bowery Ballroom – October 20, 2011

Alabama Shakes

That old E. B. White line about there being three New Yorks, that of the born-and-bred, that of the commuter and that of the transplant, always feels particularly relevant during CMJ, a mixture of hardened music-industry brass, New York City bands hoping to gain national exposure and regional acts making their way to the city in hopes of the same. The 8 p.m. band, Alabama Shakes, at a uniquely focused Bowery Ballroom, represent the second, commuters playing their first New York City gig. Three hours later, UK favorites, Dry the River were making their second jaunt to the city, out-of-towners, jet-lagged and in search of that crack in the US music market. These two transients, a pair of the most compelling acts at this year’s CMJ, plied their craft with a commuters’ intensity: restless, energized and ephemeral, success to be determined by the unnamed music executives and consumers in the crowd.

Alabama Shakes looked comfortably out of place, a warm slice of rustic rock with none of the pretense of NYC bands that traffic in the same influences. There were moments that feel channeled through Otis Redding’s seminal “Try a Little Tenderness” and others where vocalist Brittany Howard—and you simply won’t hear a better voice this year—yelped and pitched with the seasick sublimity of Janis Joplin, broken and perfect and gritty. The band remains largely introverted, save for Howard’s spinning movements around the stage, even on a second-to-last roots-rock jam played for nearly seven minutes. But it’s this band’s more explosive moments that had SPIN magazine name them one of the 25 bands not to miss at this year’s CMJ. Perhaps most important, the e-mail exchange on the Blackberry of a somewhat disinterested gentleman at the upstairs bar. The addressee: Norah Jones. The subject line: Alabama Shakes.

Dry the River, a different form of New York transient, shuffled to the stage to considerably less fanfare just after 11 p.m. and with the baggage of being a major-label act overseas but a beginner to music fans here. Playing their best song, “No Rest,” first, they carried the audience, showing the scatter and wear of day three of CMJ, to the top of the room with the biggest chorus you’ll hear in 2011. Screaming “I loved you in the best way possible” has all the potential to be cloying or overwrought and yet, amazingly, never was. Another single, “Ceremony,” in a kinship relation to this broad-scope refrain, chilled the crowd with the aplomb of a tour-toughened band with a penchant for the grandiose. But it was “Bible Belt,” a song about troubling contradiction, that tied together a UK folk-rock act wistfully reflecting on the American red states and an American red-state original (yes, Alabama Shakes hung around, watching from the front row), a shared vision of having come here for a very specific reason. —Geoff Nelson


CMJ Music Marathon Starts Today

October 18th, 2011

It’s that time of year again: 20-minute sets; in midtown one minute, the Lower East Side the next; scarfing down food with minutes to spare before the next show. From Mercury Lounge to The Bowery Ballroom and beyond, the CMJ Music Marathon is upon us. Here’re which bands we’re specifically looking forward to seeing play live. New York City quintet Caveman transfers any pop sensibilities into a dreamy landscape of lush indie harmonies through love, nostalgia and other sentiments. In support of their debut, CoCo Beware, Caveman will play 10 shows during CMJ, including the Bowery Presents showcase on 10/22 at Pianos. —Tina Benitez

The CMJ Music Marathon, now in its 31st year, is back to make five days in October seem impossible to navigate. Expect packed lineups at each venue because every band you ever wanted to see is in town. The supergroup Wild Flag, featuring Mary Timony, from Helium, and Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater Kinney among others, kicks off things tonight at The Bowery Ballroom. And at the same time Afro-punk Presents Death to Hip-Hop, featuring technical death-metal pioneers Death and Brooklyn’s own skate-pizza punk, Cerebral Ballzy, whose name really says it all. Wednesday’s pick has to be the ever-controversial indie rap group Odd Future at Terminal 5. Then on Thursday try to get into the sold-out lineup at Mercury Lounge, with garage-rock Xray Eyeballs and Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys, followed by Memoryhouse’s atmospheric shoegaze and finally, J. Mascis. You will show up at 6:30 and stay the entire night. Friday has more fuzzed-out pop with Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles at The Bowery Ballroom, and if you sleep over, on Saturday, Gang Gang Dance’s experimental electronic beats just might give you a chance to recover. And then sleep on Sunday for 24 hours before work. That’s your CMJ. —Jason Dean

Last year I spent the majority of CMJ camped out at Terminal 5 for My Morning Jacket. But this year I plan to get around. Not everyone has an abundance of free time, so if you can only hit one show, my money’s on the High Road Touring showcase at The Bowery Ballroom on 10/20. And despite it being a stellar lineup from top to bottom, for me the No. 1 band to check out during the whole festival is Alabama Shakes (above, playing “I Found You” for Live from the Shoals). The quartet, out of small-town Athens, Ala., has a four-song EP and an incredible bluesy-soul sound. You won’t want to miss Brittany Howard’s voice. Sure, she’s a postal worker by day, but she’s a bona fide rock star by night. Don’t miss this. You’ll be able to tell your friends you saw this band at the very beginning. —R. Zizmor


A Fat Wreck on a Saturday Night

October 25th, 2010

Fat Wreck Chords Showcase – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 23, 2010

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (Photo: Kirsten Housel)

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (Photo: Kirsten Housel)

On Saturday night, Music Hall of Williamsburg hosted the Fat Wreck Chords CMJ showcase. The headliner, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, has been a favorite of college kids and punk-rockers alike since it started cranking out punk covers of R&B, pop, country and show tunes in the mid-’90s, drawing a beer-fueled, pogoing crowd to see its always-animated live show. However, in keeping with the CMJ Music Marathon spirit of featuring newer talent, some of the bands that opened for Me First, which is also fronted by Fat Wreck Chords owner “Fat” Mike Burkett, deserve the most commendation.

High-energy rockabilly-gypsy punks Cobra Skulls—whose frontman Devin Peralta was one of the night’s most unique singers with his spitfire vocals and meshing of English and Spanish language lyrics—were first onstage. “Muniphobia” was especially great live, conjuring images of the CMJ attendee-filled subways. Next up: the Flatliners, whose track “Eulogy” was the only song of the night to get the lighter-in-the-air treatment (along with a large crowd sing-along).

Dead to Me did a furious punk set that found frontman Chicken passionately speaking about “shit that’s inside my heart,” like Arizona SB 1070. And Teenage Bottlerocket played the poppiest set of the openers, sounding like a new-era Ramones or Screeching Weasel. Its members’ desire to simply “party” and “eat pizza” added some lightheartedness to a politically fueled lineup of bands. For the 20-year-old Fat Wreck Chords, which has long been one of the most revered and respected independent punk labels, this was a great night of celebration. —Kirsten Housel


Sometimes Bad Books Are Really Good

October 21st, 2010

Bad Books – The Bowery Ballroom – October 20, 2010

Bad Books - The Bowery Ballroom - October 20, 2010
They fumbled while tuning their guitars, nervously laughed through some banter and shouted out chord changes to one another a few times. But these signs of a new band didn’t faze the experienced members of Bad Books. “Guys, I feel awesome right now,” said cofrontman Andy Hull as they began their first-ever show. Along with Kevin Devine (who helped open the CMJ Music Marathon the night before), the members of the Manchester Orchestra make up what is known as Bad Books, a new band that Hull was sure to explain was not a side project.

As they played through their set last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the band shook off first-show jitters and began to belt out incredible material from their self-titled debut album. Up to four of the six members would sing at times, with Devine and Hull splitting the lead duties. Devine took the lead on a few joyous-sounding songs like (as they joked) their “hit single,” “You Wouldn’t Have to Ask,” and “Holding Down the Laughter.” Hull, meanwhile, was in charge of the louder, grittier fare, like “Please Move,” but also the most hushed moments: It’s a thing of beauty to watch him quiet a room with just a guitar and his voice (which he also did in an opening slot with his other other solo band, Right Away, Great Captain!).

The main set ended with a song called “Texas,” which featured just Devine and Hull, with the latter singing on guitar and the former shrouded in darkness on the drums. The entire band reformed for an encore with the 9:45 p.m. curfew looming, but instead of cutting a few songs, they smilingly hurried through them all, furiously playing a few of their own tunes from those other bands like a kid trying to finish his homework before class. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com


Kevin Devine Kicks Off CMJ

October 20th, 2010

Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band – Music Hall – October 19, 2010

Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band - Music Hall of Williamsburg - October 19, 2010
For the first time in more than a year, Kevin Devine headlined a show with his Goddamn Band, and he celebrated the occasion by letting them choose the set list for last night’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The night served as the beginning of this year’s CMJ Music Marathon, which Devine mentioned onstage, saying how hard it was for him to believe he got to do that.

The set began with a few songs that normally make it into one of Devine’s shows, but then started taking turns thanks to the Goddamn Band. A deeper cut off his 2006 album, Put Your Ghost to Rest, “You’ll Only End Up Joining Them,” made it to the stage for the first time in a while, followed by an even rarer song in “The Shift Change Splits the Streets.” The band did a lot less midset lineup changing than they have in the past, but brought out an extra man for the trumpet parts on “Fever Moon” and “Murphy’s Song.”

The second half of the show became a wild shout-along, featuring the best and most thrilling of Devine’s songs. Hearing “Noose Dressed Like a Necklace” was a treat as it brewed through its first few verses before ending in torrid screaming and slashing guitars (guitarist Mike Strandberg alone is worth the price of admission to any of Devine’s shows). Fan favorites like the blissful “I Could Be with Anyone,” “Cotton Crush” and “Ballgame” finished the hour-plus set, leaving just enough time for a two-song encore and one final split between old and new. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com