The College Music Journal is not messing around when it calls its festival a "music marathon." With last Tuesday through Saturday jam-packed with hundreds of bands, panels, labels, promoters, writers, and college radio outlets, and with as many non-CMJ showcases as there were official bookings, the decision on where to go was dizzying.
CMJ's Top 5 Omnipresent Bands
- 1) It's a tie! Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts
- 2) The Muslims
- 3) Women
- 4) Chairlift
- 5) Crystal Antlers
Be on the lookout! These bands played a dangerous amount of showcases during the festival season (sometimes as many as five times a day!), and their hype overload and glittering press will make them explosive over the coming year.
CMJ Anti-Hero: Todd P
Brooklyn's DIY concert maven, promoter Todd Patrick hosted a slew of non-CMJ shows throughout the festival in the Continental Army Plaza, Market Hotel, and Monster Island Basement. All completely $Free.99, Todd P brought the festival's hype bands to the stage as well as notable on-the-rise bands not on the festival bill. Notable anti-acts included An Albatross, Black Dice, and Mae Shi.
Best CMJ Venue: It's a tie! Bowery Ballroom and Red Bull Space
The Bowery's first floor served as a bar with multiple flat screens loaded with Guitar Hero, and the stage and floor upstairs were expansive enough to channel even the noisiest band in New York, A Place To Bury Strangers. The only problem? The expensive bar.
Red Bull Space, on the other hand, acted as a daytime artist and press lounge by day (free Red Bull and Pabst Blue Ribbon! hair-styling station! massage parlor! giveaways!), and venue by night (where the Red Bull was still a' flowing, with vodka this time).
Best Non-CMJ Venue: The Fader Fort
Forget the Vice after-hours shows. Fader magazine's makeshift Fort venue was the place to be for a day-long party, whether you were a fan, press member, or an eager musician. One RSVP was all you needed, and you were greeted with a behemoth cutout of Abe Lincoln outside the venue and set with free SoCo punch and beer for five days. To top it off, the entire venue was covered with pop art reminiscent of a Warholian wonderland, and a Mona Lisa equipped with a denim jacket.
Best Live Show: George Clinton
The BB King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square offered funk godfather George Clinton as a CMJ headliner. The mastermind behind Parliament and Funkadelic in the '70s and '80s, Clinton arrived onstage with a baby diaper fashioned out of a towel, high-tops, and a P-Funk jacket (the jacket came off, ladies and gentlemen). He was joined by more than a dozen members of the old and new funk world as they proceeded in chants like "Vote! It ain't illegal yet!" until funktastic jams like "You Gotta Get Over The Hump" ensued for an hour. The crowd left psyched-out and gratified in a haze of green smoke. Thank goodness for street meat on 42nd.
CMJ Trend Of The Year: Crystals
Notice that one yet? Every hipster--musicians, Vicers, Todd P groupies, out-of-towners, Brooklynites--could be overheard commenting on the rise of "crystal"-themed bands this year. Unimaginative? Maybe. Clever marketing ploy? Probably. While past years have brought the indie music scene innumerable "Wolf" names, Crystal Castles, Crystal Stilts, and Crystal Antlers were this year's trendsetters as far as monikers went. Yet I still wondered: Does anybody remember the Crystal Method...or better yet, Spector-era band the Crystals?
Best "New" CMJ Band: Crystal Antlers
Although the band has been together since 2004, Long Beach, California's Crystal Antlers deserve this year's bestie, in this humble music journo's opinion. They've been compared to various eras of Les Savy Fav and fit in as many musical genres as they do psych outbursts and dynamic organ tumblers. Considering the excessive hype assigned to this year's emerging bands--compared with tangible musical delivery --Crystal Antlers not only played the best shows across the board, but their performances suggested a more defined, directional sound rising from this year's self-released EP. Sorry, Vivian Girls...while New York still loves you, the West Coast takes the cake.
If you missed this year's reigning CMJ bands or had to skip out on your favorites who rushed through town, not to worry. As a fellow concertgoer pointed out after having their fifth Red Bull of the evening, "Damnit, I can't believe I missed that band again...but it's all right. Every weekend in New York is like CMJ, so I'm sure I can catch them again!"