Hi! I’m Jay, one of the two music directors here at WVKR (alongside Thea ’13, wassupppp). As music directors, we bring new music into WVKR and report to people in the music industry about what the station is playing. In order to stay on top of “what’s hot” in the independent music sphere (and also do some casual networking), we take the opportunity every year to head down to CMJ, one of the biggest music festivals in the country. Hundreds of artists storm Manhattan and Brooklyn to perform in showcases over the course of five days, and it ain’t nothin’ but a good time.
Tuesday marked the first proper day of CMJ, and since this is my first music festival ever (!), the first day was a remotely confusing one. My girlfriend joined me for the first day (thx Gianna!), but since we’ve only been to the city a handful of times, getting from Grand Central to Washington Square Park was a tiny victory in itself. Once we finally made our way to the park, I registered and we celebrated by grabbing some t-t-t-t-TASTY falafel from Mamoun’s. Because most CMJ events are 21+, and neither of us are 21 (bummer), the showcase portion of our day didn’t actually get going until around 6:30. Until then, we strolled around the city and checked out a couple of record stores. I picked up the new Mac DeMarco album for the station. Gianna donated a dollar to diabetes research at a Duane Reade. It was chill.
Since it was the first day of the festival and I still have a couple more days of concerts to attend, I decided to take it slow and stick to a single showcase for the night. It was held in The Marlin Room at Webster Hall, a modestly sized space with lounge chairs on the perimeter and sexy red lighting. Nine bands played there over the course of roughly six hours, but we only caught the first eight due to how late it ran. Here’s how that all went down:
The first band to play was Grand Resort. They’re fresh on the Brooklyn scene, and (to my surprise!) managed by a friend of mine. At this early phase of the showcase, there were only a few of us standing around to watch, which was a shame, because Grand Resort tore it up. They performed a garage-tinged form of dream pop that I might’ve dismissed as a bit familiar, if it weren’t for an outstanding performance by the drummer, who absolutely exploded on the drums throughout the set. His aggressive style reminded me a bit of Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt — a bit more reserved, but just as sweaty. Many of the performances of the night were bands from the Captured Tracks roster, and I could totally see Grand Resort’s sound fitting in with that canon. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up in a year or two — keep an eye out!
The Young Evils followed them, a 5-piece that was decked out in all black (the guitarist had a Black Lips shirt on — respect). These guys pumped their brand of blues-punk out of their amps for a solid half-hour, almost instantly bringing to mind a young Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. While a little bit rowdier than Grand Resort, their sound also had a certain indie rock flavor to it; their harmonies in particular were reminiscent of Darlings’ boy/girl stylings. They lost me at a couple of points when their set began leaning too close to biker-bar rock’n’roll for comfort, but otherwise, I thought that this night was off to a great start. My only problem was that the crowd felt so dead; Gianna and I were the only ones really moving around to the first two acts, and while we had a good time nonetheless, the dynamic felt kinda weird.
But this dynamic between us and the rest of the crowd reached an entirely new level when BLEEDING RAINBOW CAME ON NEXT, OH MY GOD. The 4-piece from Philly successfully brought our energy levels WAY up, and we quickly found ourselves convulsing to their immense, feedback-riddled fuzz-punk. At one point, guitarist Sarah Everton came down from the stage and began bashing into Gianna and I mid-song. I soon found myself thrashing about on the floor next to her, while people took a whole lot of pictures. DON’T CARE; It was possibly one of the most cathartic concert experiences I’ve ever had, and I was fresh off seeing Total Slacker destroy the roof of The Mug only a few weeks prior. No-ViCE is bringing them to Vassar at the end of November — all I can say is get ready.
Naturally, that was where the night peaked for me, but there were still many more bands to come on. Dent May came after Bleeding Rainbow with some funky disco-pop to bring me back down to earth. These guys showed off possibly the best musicianship of the night; the bassist in particular was pumping out complex-yet-catchy riffs left and right (and he also had awesome hair [bonus points!!]). At this point, the crowd was filling up and drinks were settling into peoples’ stomachs, so people began loosening up and grooving. Their set was possibly the shortest of the night, but they still packed in a lot of songs, including one that I’ve definitely heard in my time spent working at Old Navy. Although they were arguably the chillest band to perform up to that point, they broke into a punk frenzy at the very end of their set, jumping on equipment and storming about on stage. I dug it quite a bit — check out the new album Do Things!
The other highlight of the night, and where I’ll end tonight’s post, was Mac DeMarco‘s set. This night marked the release of his new album 2, so he and his band seemed to be in the best mood ever. Their set consisted of incredibly well-crafted indie pop, with slight nods to jazz and country here and there. Mac was a remarkable character to watch, breaking out into weird faces, funny poses, and cartoony voices throughout. His eccentricity felt authentic, which is what made the band that much more enjoyable to soak in. Near the end of one of their tracks, they abruptly broke into “Message In A Bottle” by The Police, only to cut it off halfway and finish the previous song as though nothing had even happened. It was moments like these (including one point where Mac stage dove at possibly the quietest moment of the performance) that put a massive smile on my face.
Those were my favorites of the first night. I’m going to be hitting up four more showcases over Thursday and Friday, so I’ll be reporting back soon!