HITS Daily Double
“CMJ is a perfect melting pot of all genres of music in one place, with all elements aligned for the cream to rise to the top. Having your band delivering a kickass performance on the right showcase can expose you to a new audience.”
——Sean Glass


Guest Writer Sean Glass Comes Through With His Blow-by-Blow of the Music Marathon

By Jesse Beer-Dietz

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it out to CMJ this year. Fortunately, Sean Glass, son of Daniel, was there, and he’s generously provided us with a full recap of the week’s buzzin’ bands and happenin’s. Keep feedin’ my inbox: [email protected]

Stereo Assassin
(www.stereoassassin.com): Somewhere between Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, Deftones, Beck and Grandmaster Flash stands Stereo Assassin. The group’s music is at once engaging and ominous, groove-laden and beautifully disturbing. Stereo Assassin began on Long Island late last year and began building a strong foundation leading up to the August release of their debut album, Rigor Mortis, which is attracting a ton of attention. The band’s mission is clear: to continue to put out “quality left-of-center music to fans with elite taste.” Check out their tracks here and let us know what you think. You’ll find it on iTunes and CDBaby. Better yet Rigor Mortis is available as a free download on the band’s site.

Blare LeVoir
(www.myspace.com/blarelevoir): This 19-year-old, multitalented sensation is growing his global fan base the viral way. With more than 50 self-produced videos already up on YouTube, this Venezuelan-born star is rising up with his vocal chops, vitality and charm. Blare began singing in church at age 11 and joined a local touring group, The Casa Kids. With a desire to pursue every avenue of entertainment, the youngster began drawing raves for his talent as a dancer, writer, actor and model. The music is his true passion, however, and drawing on influences from Justin Timberlake to Gwen Stefani, Blare released his debut single, “Gone.” Could this up-and-comer be THE next pop star? You be the judge…

Wax (http://www.myspace.com/waxandherbalt): Here’s a YouTube sensation with north of 8.5 million views to date. Go to his Nov. 4 showcase at the Viper Room, and you’ll hear some rap and some acoustic while getting a good feel for the talent this guy brings. So check out the tunes and be there.

It was around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Young Empires had just finished their set at the Pure Volume House for what I gathered to be a Hype Machine showcase, but it seemed nobody knew where they were, who was throwing this party or what band was on. This, to my knowledge, marked the end of the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon. Both the condition of the House and its sleep-deprived inhabitants truly epitomized said “marathon.”

The floor had a coating of liquid that was deep enough to make a splash with each step. That liquid was made up of varying levels of spit, beer, melted ice (fact: there was no water offered at the Pure Volume House), Pop Chips (?!?!?!?!), tequila, energy drinks, vomit (specifically in the hallway on the way out) and perhaps some juices generated from genitalia. Everyone was on his or her ninth or tenth winds, drunkenness distracting from exhaustion. The lucky ones who were locals and had the privilege of showering no longer complained about others’ stench. It’s all part of the fun.

Or at least the experience.

Such is CMJ Music Marathon.

But nobody shows up for the spit, vomit or semen on the floor. Nor do they come for the oily haired, sweaty hipsters wearing tank tops plastered up against them during packed shows. They come for the music.

This year seemed a little different than other years. I remember last year being a competition of who knew about more secret the xx shows, and even if you knew where to go, you still had to be super-VIP or wait on an endless line. Bands like The Antlers played 5000 shows, thereby announcing themselves as another important band to-be. There were a few other big ones. I particularly remember there always being a recognized big show of the night every night.

This year, I think the playing field was a little evened out, and also more deeply populated with good bands. I did not attend one show that I had to wait on line for, badge or no badge, and managed to avoid any really packed rooms.

The obvious exception is that other CMJ show at Madison Square Garden. Confusion abounded after CMJ listed as part of its schedule Phoenix (with surprise encore shared by Daft Punk—it was incredible), being supported by Dirty Projectors and Wavves at MSG in a Bowery Presents-promoted concert. Turns out this late addition to the schedule came from the band and label’s respect for their roots, coming from CMJ and similar scenes. Even though this show was planned long before CMJ announced its schedule, and tickets were already on sale, the band made sure to set aside a good amount of comp tickets for badge holders. This really typifies CMJ’s significance in the music industry.

So many bands were in town. Hundreds are listed on the official CMJ schedule, but I’d say it’s safe to triple that if you want to actually estimate how many bands played over the four days.

In case you’re reading this and don’t know exactly what CMJ is, it’s a combination of a music festival and convention, taking place over four days in October in New York City. South by Southwest is the only event that really compares. Midem is heavier on the convention side of things; Winter Music Conference is all about dance music, DJs and parties. CMJ and SXSW are really the only two of this type. The way in each case is to purchase a badge, which allows you into everything that’s CMJ- or SXSW-affiliated.

The concerts are divided into a few different categories. If you don’t care, it’s just a whole lot of good music, and it makes no difference. If you do care, the easiest ways to distinguish things are between the signed and unsigned bands, and then the labels, the sponsors and the aggregates—between both the bands and labels and the bands and the consumers.

Examples of signed bands are, well, Phoenix and Dirty Projectors. The top unsigned band is easily Oberhofer, but bands like White Arrows and The Rassle won’t be label-less for long. Pretty much all of the labels have a presence here, from Epic Records doing a showcase for Oh Land and others at Pure Volume (some funny stories about that one in case you feel like asking around), to Glassnote Records having three bands playing CMJ and five in town this month, to small labels like Captured Tracks or Neon Gold making their presence known.

The big aggregates are ones like Pure Volume, Fader Fort, Spin magazine and Pop Justice, while the sponsors that make a big splash are Ray Ban, Levi’s, Vans and many, many more.

There are some bands that come to CMJ to get record deals. Some bands come to build a buzz for their records, perhaps gain a sponsor or two, and definitely look to get some good ink from the endless press coverage. If they play a particularly epic show, it can kickstart their career. CMJ is a perfect melting pot of all genres of music in one place, with all elements aligned for the cream to rise to the top. Having your band delivering a kickass performance on the right showcase can expose you to a new audience, while being on the wrong showcase, or doing a 1 a.m. set on the third night, after six other shows, and looking exhausted on stage, can lead to crippling bad buzz.

So, highlights, right?

No, I’m not validating Kanye West’s exploitative “surprise” #Offline Festival performance with a review. Phoenix and Daft Punk mashing up “If I Ever Feel Better” with “Harder Better Faster Stronger” and “Around the World” blew Kanye’s “Stronger” out of the water, and provided far and away the best CMJ moment ever. But that’s not really fair, because it wasn’t a regular CMJ show.

Four Tet, one of CMJ’s larger acts, was all over the place and had bands leaving my late-night DJ set to go see them play a surprise Brooklyn show at around 2 a.m. after their East Village Radio performance at Webster Hall. Also rocking Webster Hall earlier in the week was Two Door Cinema Club, supported by Penguin Prison and Grouplove. All three of those bands were all over the place as well. Gold Panda opened for Four Tet and was dug.

Penguin Prison (who is just now getting noticed for his original music, but already has a following from his remixes as well as vocals on Holy Ghost!’s “Hold On”; more on them later) was one of the highlights from the Wednesday night Pop Justice showcase as well. Fenech Soler headlined, with notable perfs coming from Natalia Kills, Samuel and the lone unsigned act on the bill, Delilah. Another notable artist, Ivri Lider, opened the night. Ivri hails from Israel, and along with a number of other Israeli artists, also played at DROM for the Israel Unlimited showcase. Israeli artists on the showcase such as Onili and Izabo both played many showcases across the city, with their Israeli reps and labels collaborating with U.S. publicists and management to start crossing those artists over. Last year, Terry Poison started this trend, and these bands kept the momentum up.

Titus Andronicus and Local Natives aren’t lacking in critical praise, but they’re not quite main-stage headliners yet, so the across-the-board positive word of mouth coming from their Spin showcase perhaps puts them rightfully so in the conversation for best up-and-coming bands. I personally consider Titus Andronicus and Phoenix as the best live acts in the world right now.

All in all, as I said, apart from the anomaly at the Garden, there was no big standout this year. It was a year where you could have real confidence that wherever you went, you were likely to run into a really good show. I consider this much more exciting than knowing that a band or two (the xx) will break out and become mainstream. We have a lot of good music to look forward to, and I trust that both the audience and the press were helped a whole lot by CMJ in figuring out who to listen to in the next year. The interesting part will be looking back at this article next October and seeing where all of these bands are then. Yes, that means you’ll need to reread me over and over again for the next 12 months.