Lessons Learned From CMJ Music Marathon

Ah, the CMJ Music Marathon. Ahead of the circus of buzzbands, open bars, and impractical swag that took over NYC last week, I made a list of goals for myself that included things like “no puking,” “no crying,” and “no professions of love or hate.” (I like planning on having dramatic public meltdowns so that I Murphy’s Law my way out of them actually happening.) I’m proud to announce that I did not do any of these things, despite the stress induced by three different good bands playing at the same time in far-flung locations and having only consumed caffeinated beverages all day (#musicbloggerproblems). In between hating Pianos and mourning the closure of Brooklyn DIY venue Delinquency, I saw everything from Philadelphia rockers Free Energy to British YouTube comedians the Midnight Beast.

Five days spent away from being hunched over my laptop and interacting with the music industry in real life meant putting a microscope on what it is, exactly, that I do. I finally met a band that I’ve written about after seeing them for the fifth time in three months, and one of them said that he was aware of me “as an internet presence.” Several days later, I still have absolutely no idea of what this means, but if I’m memorable on the internet, that theoretically means I have some distinct viability as a blogger, right? For both of our sakes, let’s hope so.

In meeting so many new people, there’s also the pressure to qualify what you like and why you like it. I’ve taken to boiling my taste down to “French dance music and internet rappers,” though obviously I listen to music that goes beyond that. I’m trying to pin down why I’m so excited about Team Spirit when I thought my garage rock phase ended years ago; they have a higher production value and stronger pop sensibilities than some of their peers, and nothing can replace genuine good energy. That being said, it was also a pleasure to catch Gallic electro-poppers like Yan Wagner, Owlle, and Housse de Racket.

Other highlights included Citizens!, Avan Lava, We Were Evergreen, Conveyor, and the amount of grievously unhealthy food that I justified consuming. Gold Fields must be a very special band, because I stayed conscious for their 2:30 a.m. set on the last night of the festival. As much fun as CMJ is, it’s also pretty exhausting, so I’m going to keep working on recovering.

Anyways, here’s to the pursuit of vibes. Maybe you’ll catch me vomiting on Ludlow Street next year.

Miscellaneous other notes:

– Why did so many people ask me if I saw Skaters? (I wasn’t able to, though they were one of my picks for the week.)
– I also did not see Foxygen, one of the more hotly tipped acts of the festival. Based on their name, I’m going to keep assuming that they’re sort of glam rock and wear a lot of neon.
– Seeing Le1f at The Westway while it was packed with drunk bros was the second most uncomfortable I have ever been at a rap show.
– If someone figures out how I can join Icona Pop if I’m not Swedish and can’t sing, please let me know.
– Spotted so many dudes with great eyebrows. Keep up the good work, boys!


Follow Katie Chow on Twitter and Tumblr.

BlackBook Tracks #18: Ten Acts To Catch At CMJ 2012

It’s that time of year, when the music industry flocks to New York City for the CMJ Music Marathon. (It’s definitely not a sprint.) If you’re in town for the week, here’s a selection of acts to check out. Pace yourself.

Slam Donahue – “I Turn On”

A couple of Brooklyn everydudes put honest, relatable lyrics in weird pop contexts. It’ll make you feel better.

Avan Lava – “It’s Never Over”

These masters of futuristic funk put on an unforgettable show. Everything’s better with confetti cannons.

Le1f – “Yup”

Still going strong from the success of “Wut” this summer, the New York rapper has been continuing his upward trajectory on a tour with Das Racist and is set to play a number of high profile showcases this week, including MTV Hive’s and Pitchfork’s events. This song contains the line “The fabric of my life is a sexy fucking textile.”

Team Spirit – “Teenage Love” 

Team Spirit, led by former Passion Pit keyboardist-turned-garage rocker Ayad Al Adhamy, just signed to Vice Records–in blood. (They’re otherwise not particularly comparable to Joy Division, though.)

Skaters – “Fear Of The Knife” 

Skaters’ debut EP Schemers serves up some damn fine lo-fi rock. “Fear Of The Knife” suggests something bigger and brighter, a beach day song that still sounds good in the off season.

Osekre and the Lucky Bastards – “Why Are You Here?” 

With an energetic live show, the Afropop outfit has become a fixture on the Brooklyn scene. New single “Why Are You Here?” is catchy and immediately memorable.

We Were Evergreen – “Baby Blue” 

This London-via-Paris trio effortlessly charms with plenty of hooks and sweet harmonies. Indie pop doesn’t get much better than this.

Yan Wagner – “Forty Eight Hours”

This Parisian singer/producer punches up new wave influences to make sharp, resonant electro pop delivered with wit and wisdom.

Gold Fields – “Moves”

The rising Australian band makes driving electro-rock that’s set to take them far. The frenetic “Moves” showcases their sound.

Local Natives – “Sun Hands”

You loved this in 2010 and you still love it now, right? The LA indie rockers are back, and hopefully better than ever.

Follow Katie Chow on Twitter.

New York Rock Trio Skaters Are Ready for Their Big Break

New York-based trio Skaters are about to explode. With members from L.A. bands Dead Trees and Little Joy, and the guitarist of U.K. phenomenon The Paddingtons, the three chose to meet in the middle, geographically and stylistically, to record an EP in New York. They never left.

The result, Schemers, is available for free on their website, providing a refreshing contrast to the $1.29-per-track iTunes deathtrap or the virus-ridden MediaFire shot in the dark. They’ve been steadily gaining momentum, playing at least one show a month and premiering videos and promoting shows on places like Interview, Vice, and Nylon. This week’s New York Times profile and a headlining show tonight at Webster Hall Studio mark a new high for the band. 

I spoke with singer Michael Ian Cummings on living in the city, preparing for the show at Webster Hall, and what we can expect from Skaters in the coming months.

So Skaters is from New York. How do you feel the constant onslaught of stimulation affects your sound?
It’s probably the reason we can’t write slow songs. The energy of New York is totally inescapable—you can’t fight it. It’s better to roll with it. You go hard ‘til you crash in New York City. 

How would you describe your music?
I try not to as much as possible. In my slightly biased point of view, I’d say we are like a modern punk band with eclectic and somewhat esoteric influences ranging from ska to tropicallia.   

What are your influences, musical and otherwise?
I’m influenced a lot by the city and its people. Walking down the street here is like going to the theater. There’s never a dull moment, and I find myself constantly gaining new insight and inspiration from being around the people. Musically, I’m all over the place. I have my go-to records, of course, but I also keep up on modern pop and new rock acts. Sometimes it’s just as important to listen for what not to do.

You’re starting a zine. Can you talk a bit about that?
We are releasing our first zine called “YONKS” tonight at our show at Webster Hall. The zine will be a way to showcase our favorite artists and friends work to our fans. Many of the people in the zine have done a lot of work with the band already. We really wanted to recognize our community of super talented friends.

You guys gave away your first EP, Schemers, for free. Why?
We just wanted people to hear it. No one is getting rich here. It’s better for us to keep control and give it away openly then force people to download it illegally or through the iTunes middleman. More people will hear it this way, and that’s what really matters.

How is your headlining show at Webster Hall going to differ from your frequent monthly shows around the city?
It’s going to be our biggest show to date. We’re pulling out all the stops. I guess you will just have to show up and see for yourself!

What can we look forward to from you guys this year?
A new record, many music videos, our first tour, a few more zines, and a lot of partying.

Are you skaters?
Figure skaters, maybe. Nope, can’t do that either!