Unlike the past few years before, this year's CMJ music marathon seems to have less of the established bands and brands. The biggest band at the marathon appears to be the long-awaited return of the UK act Broadcast, who's touring with the Atlas Sound. Otherwise, the field is wide open to the 1200+ young, talented acts that serve the heart of the festival's purpose, enlightening the future collegiate tastemakers as to what's coming soon to a venue near you. Among the most anticipated are Australia's Midnight Juggernauts, the UK's The XX and hometown heroes The Antlers and School of Seven Bells as well as the east coast debut of Belgium's Aeroplane.
Since i don't have the means to fork $400+ for a CMJ badge, i've been doing CMJ as a recessionist should/would. Taking full advantage of the numerous FREE day parties all over the city, curated by the top NY music movers and shakers from bloggers to labels and bookers and so forth. At night, all shows are open to the public at a great value if you act fast and purchase tickets before they sell out. Therefore, i say to my pal CM to the J..."We don't need no stinking badges."
Started Day One at the cake shop, which is a great little cafe/record store in the heart of NY's lower east side. Downstairs in the basement they had a clutch lineup of bands curated by one of the top music blogs, aptly titled, Pop Tarts Suck Toasted. Was impressed by the opener, Brooklyn's Dinosaur Feathers, who had nice high-pitched harmonies sort of like the indie-pop version of the Fleet Foxes. Next, i walked a wopping 20 yards to go to the Sneak Attack Media/Music Slut day party at Pianos. Upstairs, I saw the highly touted Javelin, a boom box-fueled crunk tropicalia duo who played a plethora of electronics and samples in front of a projection of lost and found garage sale footage mashing up anything from the Revenge of the Nerds to Shaq's rapping debut in the early 90's. "Soda-Popinski" is a personal fave (interpolated from the venerable villain from "Mike Tyson's Punch Out") and their sea floor urchin dance video is defly worth your consumption. Downstairs i hit up the dance hall and heard the easy snappin' indie-reggae of Sean Bones, formerly of the group Sam Champion. You might have seen his starring role in the acclaimed film, "Wat Do Dem" co-starring Norah Jones.
In the evening i bounced to Brooklyn, for the Brooklyn Vegan showcase at the Music Hall of Williamsburg for stellar headliners The Antlers, Fanfarlo, and Laura Marling but i was rather peculiar of the lesser known talents of the awesome Montreal band Think About Life, a meeting of the minds of Architecture in Helsinki/Bloc Party/and The Friendly Fires/TV on the Radio. The lead singer seemed a little awkward with his banter between tracks but it was easily forgiven for their dancetastic tunes, dominating all the inertia in the music hall and delighting the small crowd of early-comers. I went downstairs to the bar between bands and ended up meeting the members of Denver's Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel, possibly and personally one of the most anticipated acts i had heard in my research. Nathaniel's songs are simply sweet and earnest folk songs, conjuring my other faves Bon Iver and Paulo Nutini, the latter of which he has opened for. This night was also a celebration of their new signing from A&R chief Dave Godowski of Rounder Records so look for a debut release in Spring '10.
It was a difficult decision but i opted out of the great headliners of the rest of the showcase to catch a set from HIGHLIFE at the recently opened Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. This is a project from Sleepy Doug Shaw and features vocal assistance from Mira Billotte (White Magic). "F Kenya RIP" (available for streaming on their myspace page) is the whole reason why i fled to this show so i hope you will agree that it is one of the most beautiful tracks of the year. The track pays tribute to Francis Kenya Guitar Band.
Last destination was to the Cameo Gallery to see 8-bit beasts Anamanaguchi. The showcase was curated by Popgun Booking, who i hear is quickly making a name for themselves out here showcasing a variety of good bands. Anamanaguchi were very impressive, playing music out of a re-programmed sound card in a donkey kong cartridge to produce the best of a growing pattern of the many backing tracks i've heard throughout the day. Darwin Deez had the pleasure of culmination and he did a great job despite a diminished crowd. He and his bandmates had maneuvered 4 amazing dance skits as interludes between his infectious dance pop with a side of calisthenics. For fans of Throw Me the Statue or danceable Death Cab For Cutie.
I was able to capture snippets of the live performances from all of these bands through my new Ultra HD Flip cam, so make sure and go to FoundTrack's CMJ Youtube page to check out our extensive coverage.