What To See And Where To Party During CMJ

(Additional reporting by Ken Scrudato)

The CMJ Music Marathon has been in business for 34 years now, and it has continued to grow every year. While that’s typically a good sign for festivals, it’s possible that this one has gotten a bit out of hand. There are almost 1,200 bands playing the Marathon over five days, and making a schedule can be a nightmare. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to see all the bands you want to, and you’re not going to make it to every event that sounds cool. There is simply too much going on.

So, while we couldn’t fit everything worth seeing into our lineup, we’ve handpicked some showcases that are sure to be some of the best this week. And since it’s a festival, you should make a night of it, enjoying the music and stopping by a local eatery before or after the show for a bite and a drink. Discovering new favorite bands and restaurants is incredibly fun, and if you’re looking for suggestions, we’ve got some good ones!

Gorilla vs Bear CMJ Party @ Baby’s All Right
Show up early and order up a round of munchies from BAR‘s in-house restaurant. We recommend Pulled Pork Nachos, the duck confit Duck Puppies and, just for the kitsch value, the Phil Collins Fries. The timing of this show is actually perfect if you want to come for dinner and stay for a show, as the bands (featuring Saint Pepsi and TOPS) don’t go on until 11 PM.

Balcony TV Marlin Room @ Webster Hall
Feed your sophisticated side by downing a few glasses of Amarone or Brunello at Veloce a block away on 2nd Ave before witnessing what just might be the best lineup at CMJ. Headliners like Little Daylight (pictured above) and Carousel are the names everyone already knows are about to break, but spend some time at this one and check out Handsome Ghost, MOTHXR (fronted by the actor Penn Bedgley) and Catey Shaw.


Texas Takeover Party @ The Delancey
The Texas Takeover Party is a long one—it starts at three in the afternoon and goes until eleven at night—so you’ll need some food in between sets. Stick to the Southern theme and chow down at Georgia’s Eastside BBQ on Orchard. The BBQ sampler will hold you ’til the sun comes up.

WFUV Live at CMJ @ Rockwood Music Hall
While at CMJ (which is supposed to be all about college radio), it’s important to go to at least one radio station’s show. WFUV is not only a local school’s station (it broadcasts from Fordham), they clearly know their music, as they’ve booked Son Little, Elle King, and Kappyness. After the show, you can commune with the hipster set at Congee Village just up the street. Break up the night with a mad dim-sum fest.

Canadian Blast @ Fat Baby
One of the cool things about festivals like CMJ is that often times countries send groups of bands to show what they have to offer back home, and Canada has one of the best shows whenever they present. Do pre-show dinner with the cool kids at Matt Levine’s Sons of Essex (pictured below) around the corner. Order up the Whiskey Wings and Po’ Boy Sliders to keep it rock & roll.

Sons of Essex image

The Bee-Hive, sponsored by the Wild Honey Pie and Squarespace @ Brooklyn Bazaar
Before the show, hit up the Bazaar’s Bareburger, followed by a Crack-O-Lantern ice cream at Ice & Vice. The Wild Honey Pie is a blog that throws fantastic events, and they’re pulling out all the stops for CMJ. Whatever you do, don’t miss headliner Zella Day, who is one of the easiest acts to like from the entire festival’s roster.

The Fader Fort @ Converse Rubber Tracks Studio
You’re at The Fader Fort—just stay and suck up to the indie music cognoscenti. In fact, no matter what day you go (it runs three nights), if you leave for even a moment, you could miss some names that you may already know, mixed in perfectly with the best up-and-comers. Wait, is Willow Smith actually playing this party?

Jukebox The Ghost @ The Standard East Village
After all the running around from showcase to showcase, this is your chance to relax. Grab a sidewalk table at the hotel’s ground floor Café Standard, and knock back a few Dark And Horny or Pimp’s Cup cocktails with the trendsters. Jukebox The Ghost (pictured below) is the only band playing, so you know just when to arrive, and can leave once they’re done (or not).

Jukebox The Ghost image

The Planetary Group. Dutch Impact, and Eurosonic Noorderslagf Party @ Pianos
Show up early and just drink on the cheap at Piano’s. This is the kind of place where even if you mean to only see one or two bands and hang out for an hour, you’ll be there all day, and you won’t regret a thing.

The AK Management/Golightly Media Party @ SPIN
Make sure you catch Monogem before she’s opening for some of the biggest electro acts out there, and don’t miss the always-adorable Mainland. Then, down Belgian brews or a bottle of good Bordeaux with the Euros and Francophiles at 24-hour L’Express (pictured below). Plow through ‘til morning with a late night Croque Madame or Mac’N Fromage.

L'express image


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