CMJ Music Marathon 2010

Arts & Entertainment

by Jonathan Zeller, Erin O'Hara and Laura Kusnyer, 10/06/2010

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From October 19 to 23, the preposterously huge CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival will jam 1,200 bands and 120,000 fans into more than 75 rock 'n' roll dens and theaters across Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The event—now in its 30th year—is famously cutting-edge, having showcased U2, Lady Gaga, R.E.M. and the Black Eyed Peas before they were stars. ("CMJ" stands for "College Media Journal.") This year's festival features a parade of acts who have already hit it big or are about to break through, including minor-chord Modest Mouse–sound-alikes Bear Hands; boyfriend-girlfriend duo Jenny (Lewis) and Johnny (Rice); the mighty Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers; and's new favorite band, Phoenix. The week also brings comedy shows, films, and—for badge holders—a number of informative panel discussions.

Not sure where to start? We're here to help. Below, you'll find a day-by-day itinerary with show recommendations (plus one panel thrown in for good measure). Once you've made your picks, familiarize yourself with some of the music halls you'll be frequenting all week long using our guide to CMJ venues throughout the City. Just pull on your favorite ironic T-shirt, scarf and skinny jeans (sorry—it's actually illegal to write an article about hip music without mentioning ironic T-shirts, scarves and/or skinny jeans), and you'll be ready to rock. —Jonathan Zeller

Tuesday, October 19
Wednesday, October 20
Thursday, October 21
Friday, October 22
Saturday, October 23


Tuesday, October 19
Jenny and Johnny and Times New Viking at Irving Plaza: Jenny and Johnny is the new stage name of couple, best friends and indie rock royalty Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley) and Johnathan Rice. Their new tunes blend the pair's mutual adoration for twangy country songs and Jenny's signature sweet melodies. Joining them is Times New Viking, a front-runner of the current lo-fi noise-pop wave. Doors at 6:30pm; $29; all ages. Visit and for more info. —Erin O'Hara

Das Racist at Pianos: This off-the-wall Brooklyn-based hip-hop trio has been gaining popularity since this March, when they released their first album, Shut Up, Dude—which is a much more intelligent record than the title suggests. Wasting no time, they released Sit Down, Man in September and are promoting it with a storm of live shows punched up by hype man Ashok Kondabolu. 8pm; cover TBA; 21+. Visit for more info. —Laura Kusnyer

Dan Black at Highline Ballroom: Face-paint-wearing Briton Dan Black incorporates diverse influences—including R&B, rock and hip-hop—into his "wonky pop" singles. However you categorize his songs, there's no denying they're catchy and get crowds dancing. Doors at 6pm, set at 11:15pm; $15; all ages. Visit for more info. —JZ

"Transitioning into a True Rock Opera: Green Day's American Idiot" at NYU Kimmel Center: Not too long ago, the idea of a Green Day musical might have seemed far-fetched. Now not only does such a show exist; it's a bona-fide hit. During this panel discussion, cast and creative team members chart American Idiot's journey from concept album to Broadway show. 3:15–4:30pm; admission with CMJ badge only. Visit for more info. —JZ


Wednesday, October 20
Phoenix and Dirty Projectors at Madison Square Garden: We love French indie rock phenomenon Phoenix, and recently spoke with guitarist Christian Mazzalai. Openers Dirty Projectors are known for keeping listeners off-balance with sweet melodies, complex arrangements and unusual time signatures. They're from Brooklyn, but sometimes sound as if they could be from another planet. 8pm; $29.50–$49.50; all ages. Visit and for more info. —JZ

Jukebox the Ghost at The Delancey: Last year, we told you that this ebullient piano-driven three-piece combo was on the way up. Sure enough, since CMJ 2009, Jukebox the Ghost has appeared on Late Show with David Letterman and released a critically acclaimed second album. Catch them at a small venue while you still can. Doors at 1pm, set at 4:45pm; price TBA; 21+. Visit for more info. —JZ

The Drums with Surfer Blood at Webster Hall: If The Breakfast Club were remade with a new soundtrack, this is what Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy would be dancing to in detention. Infectious and fun, The Drums' synth-pop sound alone is worth the cover. Adding extra value to the show is opening act Surfer Blood, whose reverb-y guitar will be a treat for fans of, naturally, surf rock. Doors at 7pm, show at 8:30pm; $20; 18+. Visit and for more info. —LK

Chris Bathgate at Bruar Falls: He may not be the most famous singer-songwriter in NYC (yet), but it's a different story in his home state of Michigan and various cities throughout Europe. With an army of instruments—from piano to guitar to violin to banjo—double-tracked vocals and soulful lyrics, he's often compared to his more established contemporaries Iron and Wine and Bon Iver. Doors at 7pm, set at 11pm; $12; 21+. Visit for more info. —EO


Thursday, October 21
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Screaming Females at the Music Hall of Williamsburg: BrooklynVegan's showcase features New York City's own saccharine indie-popsters The Pains of Being Pure at Heart alongside the noisy, energetic Screaming Females—whose singer does, indeed, have two X chromosomes and wails with the best of 'em. Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm; $17; 18+. Visit and for more info. —JZ

The Extra Lens and John Vanderslice at Mercury Lounge: Franklin Bruno joins Mountain Goats front man John Darnielle for this side project, which combines Darnielle's evocative literary lyrics with Bruno's compositional acumen for a sound that's both fresh and familiar for MG's cult fan following. John Vanderslice's gritty folk sound is a worthy complement. Doors at 6:30pm; $18; 21+. Visit and for more info. —EO

Two Door Cinema Club at Webster Hall: Northern Ireland's Two Door Cinema Club uses rock instruments and electronic sounds to create insanely catchy songs (their "drummer" is a Macintosh computer). Fans of Phoenix, especially, should check them out. Doors at 6pm, show at 7pm; $20; 18+. Visit for more info. —JZ

Paw Tracks Showcase at Cake Shop: Paw Tracks, the label owned by Animal Collective, is putting on a show of its signed bands, plus a few others. Deakin, who plays at 8pm, is one of the two members of AC performing solo at this year's CMJ festival—the other is Avey Tare, whose DJ set is still TBA. Other performers include Prince Rama, who have been getting a lot of Internet buzz lately for their chaotic sound, and Excepter, whose strange music and stage antics (singing an entire song in a headstand, for example) make for a bizarrely unique experience. Doors at 7; cover TBA; 21+. Visit for more info. —EO


Friday, October 22
Ghostface Killah at B.B. King's: After a successful run, the members of legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan parted ways to pursue solo careers. Staten Island native Ghostface Killah gathered followings in both the rap and underground rock worlds. He's renowned for his fast narrative flow, artfully set against samples and melodies. Doors at 10:30pm, show at 11pm; $27 advance, $30 day of show; all ages. For more info, visit —EO

Patent Pending at The Delancey: Theirs is not the gritty sound of the Lower East Side, but hyperactive pop-punkers Patent Pending have enough moxie and sing-along choruses—along with the occasional choreographed dance move—to fill the Fall Out Boy–size hole in the hearts of America's teenagers (and teenagers-at-heart). Doors at 6pm, show at 9:20pm; $10; 21+. Visit for more info. —JZ

Eternal Summers at Cake Shop: In an indie scene where harsh noise is sometimes more appreciated than soothing melodies, Eternal Summers is making its name known with a pleasant, ethereal and upbeat sound. The band consists of only two people, but the female singer's tenacious vocals provide energy enough to fill a room. Doors at 7pm; cover TBA; 21+. Visit for more info. —EO

Nada Surf at Mercury Lounge: The '90s alt-rock stars Nada Surf rocketed to fame with the 1996 hit song "Popular" from their debut album, which was produced by Ric Ocasek. They've enjoyed a prolific career since then, evolving into widely adored indie rock icons. Doors at 6:30; $15; 21+. Visit for more info. —EO


Saturday, October 23
Reggie Watts, Kristen Schaal at Union Hall: Kristen Schaal of The Daily Show and Flight of the Conchords and musician/comedian/improviser Reggie Watts are two of the biggest stars at an alternative comedy show called Heart of Darkness: A Night of Forgiveness and Salvation. If the show's name is any indication, you're in for an offbeat evening. 8pm; $10 advance, $12 day of show; 21+. Visit and for more info. —JZ

Neon Indian at Bowery Ballroom: Neon Indian is one of the latest bands to bring '80s-inspired "chillwave" into the mainstream, with Rolling Stone dubbing them one of the hottest bands of the year. The combination of vintage synthesizers, repetitious loops and hushed crooning is relaxing and entrancing. 8pm; cover TBA; 18+. Visit for more info. —EO

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers at Arlene's Grocery: Tiny, powerful and a little vulgar, Shilpa Ray alternates between crooning somber ballads and screaming unintelligibly to rabble-rousing tracks—all while pumping away at her harmonium. Consisting of Shilpa and four male instrumentalists (the "happy hookers"), the band is set to release its new album, Teenage and Torture, in January. Doors at noon, set at 5pm; cover TBA; 21+. Visit for more info. —LK

School of Seven Bells at Santos Party House: Another male–female duo and local Brooklyn band, School of Seven Bells, combines electronic synth beats with churchly vocals to create a neo-Gothic vibe. Doors at 7pm, set at midnight; $15; 18+. Visit for more info. —EO


related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    158 Ludlow St
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
    NY 10002
  2. 2
    Arlene's Grocery
    95 Stanton St
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
    NY 10002
  3. 3
    Music Hall of Williamsburg
    66 N 6th St
    Brooklyn – Williamsburg
    NY 11211
  1. 4
    The Delancey
    168 Delancey St
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
  2. 5
    Webster Hall
    125 E. 11th St.
    Manhattan – East Village
    NY 10003
  3. 6
    Madison Square Garden
    2 Penn Plaza
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10121
  1. 7
    Irving Plaza
    17 Irving Plaza
    Manhattan – Gramercy
    NY 10003
  2. 8
    Highline Ballroom
    431 W. 16th St.
    Manhattan – Chelsea
    NY 10011
  3. 9
    B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
    237 W. 42nd St.
    Manhattan – Times Square
    NY 10036

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