What a week! The CMJ Music Marathon 2010 in New York City was pretty much nonstop musical motion for WMSE. From Monday of last week until last Saturday evening, the WMSE music and promotions team (Erin and Ryan) were present to learn about the latest goings-on in the music industry and college radio, share the word about the Mighty 91 and Milwaukee music, meet fellow music directors and promoters and navigate various venues across New York City to hear some of the best new music college radio is spinning.
Last Tuesday, we began our CMJ week by sitting in on a panel called “The Future of the Music Business? Really?”. Really. We wanted to find out just what was up with the popularity and mainstay of digital media and learn the ups and downs straight from the mouths of the pros, which included Michael Harris (EMI Music) and Cliff Chenfeld of Razor & Tie. The CMJ college mixer (mentioned in a previous post) was a great way to meet our college radio peers, too. By far, though, Thursday was officially the biggest day of CMJ — WMSE kicked it off by heading off to school (the campus of New York University) for some panels, then some music…
Vice President of the CMJ Network, Rev. Moose and CMJ Editorial Senior Editor and Radio Relations Manager Lisa Hresko fronted a meet-up for music directors and also a panel on marketing and promoting in college radio — more than a half an hours’ worth of questions from various college radio peers provided some great insights into hurdles college stations are sharing. After lunch, I caught La Sera with Ruben from Hardly Art Records at Arlene’s Grocery. Are you familiar with garage-girl group Vivian Girls? If so, then La Sera shouldn’t be quite so unfamiliar, even though they’re shiny-new.
VG bassist/drummer/vocalist Katy Goodman continues the old-school rock vibes with her own music and has added guitarist Jenn Prince and drummer/keyboardist Brady Hall to fill in for a super-catchy, power-trio attack. In between songs, the band divulged jokingly that they had played a yacht party the day before and Kim Kardashian had rolled up to the dock in her SUV, only to take one look at them on the boat, roll up the window, and drive away. Yachts just aren’t the welcoming places they used to be…
Later that evening, we headed over to Pianos to check out fellow Wisconsinte, Sean Carey’s (S. Carey) new solo project [he's the drummer for Bon Iver when BV is on tour]. S. Carey’s new album, All We Grow, is full of understated beauty and it was even more evident, live, as Carey sat behind a set of keys, flanked by pals on cello, guitar and violin (Bon Iver’s Mike Noyce), playing on subtle instrumentation and choral-ized vocals. It was a great kick-off to what would eventually end as a more raucous showcase. Carey ended his set with a cover of David Bazan’s “Lost My Shape” from his latest, Curse Your Branches, leaving the audience in rapt appreciation and making the whole idea of showcases feel unsatisfying. Four-five songs from each band sometimes isn’t nearly enough, it seems.
From Pianos, we headed to The Delancey in hopes of catching First Aid Kit, two singing sister phenoms from Sweden. The venue was packed to the gills, with a skronk-jazz band taking up the attention of the crowd upstairs, and the CMJ showcase downstairs. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson was already onstage when we sidled our way in, announcing that he was having instrument problems. Robinson subsequently switched from his planned synths/keys to a guitar with lots of reverb and fuzz. The new instrumentation didn’t quite do Robinson service, and the crowd clapped politely, waiting obviously to catch First Aid Kit, crowding the stage after Robinson exited.
And for good reason: the two sisters, armed with autoharp and guitar held the room’s attention during their whole set. They capably charmed the audience with their easy-going stage chatter and easily brought the semi-talkative back-crowd to silence as they left their mics to sing “Ghost Town”. After the end of their set at The Delancey, we headed back to Pianos to catch Suuns, who put on a blistering and intense performance at the intimate venue. Bathed in red light, Suuns hammered out songs from their brand new Zeroes QC, full of psych-ish washes and angular instrumentation. We left Pianos, our brains addled, but in an awesome way.
Friday saw us hitting up more panels and making use of the awesome CMJ mentor sessions, where we could ask industry pros our deep-seated questions about the music industry and our careers. Later, we made a point to make use (as well) of the even more ramped up music lineups throughout the city, stopping by The Knitting Factory to catch pals Cotton Jones for a set filled with awesome omnichord embellishments. After some dinner, we made our way to the gorgeous and spacious GlassLands Gallery in Brooklyn, in time to catch a set from Guards. Post-CMJ research has rendered nothing about this band, which I regret, but I’m hoping to find out more about them, soon. Drugged-out guitars and again, the addition of omnichord, left the band’s music hanging in the air long after they switched their pedals and amps off. Straightaway, we walked over to the Brooklyn Vegan loft party, featuring music from The Loom and Strand of Oaks, two stages dividing up the room, the lineup taking turns going from one to another for a subdued but strong set of performances.
Final destination of the evening was The Bowery Ballroom. I arrived just in time to catch an amazing set from San Diego’s Crocodiles. The noise-rock band played a set filled with material from their latest release Sleep Forever, channeling the most energetic and deadpan-cool energies of The Jesus & Mary Chain. Headliner, Dean Wareham (front man for Galaxie 500, Luna and Dean & Britta), sat poised to play an exclusive set of music from the Galaxie 500 catalogue, encircling the 90′s dream-pop band’s fans with memories and treating them to a set of classics like “4th of July”, “Flowers”, “Blue Thunder” and “When Will You Come Home”. Sans original band mates, Wareham invited bassist Britta Phillips (Luna, Dean & Britta), drummer Jason Lawrence (Dean & Britta) and guitarist Matt Sumrow (HeaveN) to play with him for the sold-out stint, which was as warm, subtle and pretty as the band’s music.