CMJ Day 1: Hipster Disneyland
Greetings from New York City, Solid State!
Welcome to the first of several-if-and-when-I-have-time-and-computer-access posts from the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC.
I arrived in NYC yesterday afternoon and had quite the introduction to this here city-wide hoedown. After depositing my belongings at a friend's apartment in Brooklyn, I made my way into the city to check in at the CMJ registrar where I was given my press credentials, a strange, multi-colored neon gift shoulder bag and a voluminous guidebook outlining anything and everything I might need or want to know about the showcase — which also makes me look like an idiot tourist every time I pull it out to figure out where I'm going and when I need to be there, which is often since, well, I'm kind of an idiot tourist this trip.
I loosely planned my attack over a beer or two while watching the Phillies-Giants game — at a Red Sox bar, of all places! With over 1200 bands and 50+ venues, trying to stick to a rigid itinerary at CMJ is foolish. Still, it's good to have a few landmark shows along the way to help structure all the wandering. My idea for last night, roughly, was to make my way from 14th Street to Piano's on Ludlow Street and swing through as many joints as I could en route to — drum roll, please! — Das Racist. Oh, hell yes.
The first stop was an old favorite NYC haunt, the Lit Lounge. Crammed into the claustrophobic's nightmare that is the punk dive's basement, my virgin CMJ ears were gently broken by the strains of Israeli garage-pop outfit Izabo. Maybe it's only because they were my first band at CMJ, or maybe it's because their pretty merch girl gave me a free lighter, but I friggin' loved these guys. My notes from the show are a little cryptic, but here's my best shot at distilling them:
Narcoleptic psych-pop with a dramatic lead singer caught somewhere between the Velvet Underground, the Yardbirds and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Intricate arrangements and surprising melodic turns, bolstered by cleverly carefree backing vocals. Also, I have something written down about when a bartender asks if you're with a band, just say "yes." Sage advice.
The next group was an experimental avant rock duo, Dada Trash Collage. I imagine these cats might go over well with Aether Everywhere and Mars Pyramid folks. For me, they kind of bridged the divide between my love for catchy hooks and curiosity about crazy-as-fuck noise. The thing that often loses me about "experimental" or "other" music is a lack of something tangible to anchor my interest within the unwieldy maelstrom of sounds. DTC obliged by tackling fairly anthemic pop songs within the unpredictable constructs of an electronic noise band. But even amid all the sonic chicanery, they never lost sight of the song as the focus of their performance. Cool stuff.
I'll check in with more about the rest of the evening in a little while. But I'm running late to a panel discussion featuring CMJ Managing editor Michael Tedder, eMusic's Sean Fennessy (you got some 'splaining to do), SPIN's Charles Aaron, freelancer Maura Johnston and, a personal hero, Rob Harvilla from the Village Voice.
In the meantime, here's a clip from possibly my favorite find last night, Lily & the Parlour Tricks, who'll actually be at 51 Main in Middlebury on November 6. Enjoy!