CMJ Music Marathon 2012
by nycgo.com staff, 10/02/2012
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It's the 21st century, and we have more tools than ever with which to discover new bands. But all the Spotifys, Pandoras and Soundclouds in the world can't equal the impact of live music. In that spirit, from October 16 to 20, the preposterously huge CMJ Music Marathon will jam more than 1,300 acts and 120,000 fans into more than 80 rock 'n' roll dens across Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The event, now in its 32nd year, showcased U2, Lady Gaga and R.E.M. before they were stars. This iteration of the festival features a parade of acts that have already hit it big or are about to break through, including hip-hop luminary Talib Kweli, New York's own rock veterans The Walkmen and New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra, who is featured on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." 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. 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. And remember—while a badge gets you the most access, fans can do just fine buying tickets a la carte and ducking into free shows.
CMJ isn't the only live music in this town; check out our full concert calendar by clicking the link below.
The English Beat and The Paul Collins Beat at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
Two bands, each once known simply as "The Beat," unite on one fun-filled and potentially confusing bill. Known for hits like "Save It For Later," 1980s ska outfit The English Beat always puts on a lively performance (and, worry not, they're also known to play infectious General Public cut "Tenderness.") The Paul Collins Beat, meanwhile, plays catchy pop-rock. For more info, visit bbkingblues.com.
The Mountain Goats and Matthew E. White at Bowery Ballroom
John Darnielle brings his undeniable talents as a wordsmith and his merry band of collaborators to Bowery Ballroom. He’ll be joined by the idiosyncratic, bearded Matthew E. White. For more info, visit boweryballroom.com.
Off! at Irving Plaza
Featuring members of Black Flag, Rocket from the Crypt and others, hardcore punk supergroup Off! released its debut full-length album this year. "Full-length," though, is a relative term: the whole 16-song affair clocks in at less than a minute per tune. For more info, visit irvingplaza.com.
Blondfire with Sky Ferreira and Gabriel Bruce at Union Hall
Sibling duo Blondfire got their name from a friend’s misheard comment about a bonfire. It stuck—and the unsigned artists’ melodic debut album, Young Heart, catapulted to the top spot on the iTunes Alternative chart. They’re joined by soulful rising star Sky Ferreira and poetically inclined Londoner Gabriel Bruce. For more info, visit ticketweb.com.
The Jezabels at Webster Hall
Female-fronted Aussie band The Jezabels bring their chiming pop vocals and intense, conceptual lyrics to Webster Hall. Listen to tracks “Endless Summer” and “Hurt Me,” a previous iTunes single of the week. For more info, visit websterhall.com.
Manimal Vinyl CMJ Showcase at The Knitting Factory
LA-based record label Manimal Vinyl showcases some of their best, brightest and poppiest with a bill featuring Chains of Love, whose reverb-heavy rock recalls the girl groups of the late’60s; Papercranes, whose vocalist, Rain Phoenix, has a knack for lyrical emoting; and Young Girls, a band which, it should be noted, includes no actual girls. Also performing are Heliotropes, Aact Rraiser, The Analog Girl and a DJ set by Baron Von Luxxury. For more info, visit bk.knittingfactory.com.
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult at The Gramercy Theatre
They’ve still got it: the disco-industrialists of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult are back to celebrate their 25th anniversary with dancey, funky, freaky tunes that make us nostalgic for the heyday of the Limelight. Expect the usual paeans to deviant behavior from releases like The Filthiest Show in Town. For more info, visit thegramercytheatre.com.
The Virgins at Brooklyn Bowl
Downtown NYC's latest group of standard-bearers, bestowed with the sort of honors once enjoyed by bands like The Strokes and The Velvet Underground (yes, really), perform at Brooklyn's finest show venue–backslash-bowling alley. Expect to hear "Rich Girls," and, quite possibly, to see some in attendance. For more info, visit brooklynbowl.com.
Notes from the Underground: CMJ at Ace Hotel
Talk about a noisy checkout: for three days, DJs from independent record labels Mom + Pop, Frenchkiss Records, Modular Recordings, Third Man and Beggars Group will spin all night in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. While you’re there, check out Illcentric Crewtons—a gallery show by famed photographer Ricky Powell, who has captured such artists as the Beastie Boys, Run D.M.C., Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat on film. Admission is free. For more info, visit acehotel.com.
DIIV, Mac DeMarco, Thieves Like Us and Dignan Porch at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Zachary Cole Smith's dreamy, dark, new-wavey band (formerly known as the easier-to-spell, harder-to-Google Dive) recently released its first full-length album, Oshin. Also on the bill: Mac DeMarco, Thieves Like Us and Dignan Porch. For more info, visit musichallofwilliamsburg.com.
GZA and Bear Hands at Irving Plaza
You want diverse? We'll give you diverse. This lineup unites two acts that don't have much in common beyond their New York City roots: founding Wu-Tang member GZA (set to perform Liquid Swords) and danceable post-punk band Bear Hands. Also on tap: Killer Mike and Sweet Valley. For more info, visit irvingplaza.com.
MNDR at Bowery Ballroom
Amanda Warner is the mercurial sort—a tough-to-pin-down West Coast transplant who’s been crafting arty NYC electro-pop for a few years now. Her debut, Feed Me Diamonds, was released at the end of August and has the distinction of being the only record we’ve ever heard to reference Patty Hearst, Henry Ford and Marina Abramovic—and remain danceable. (Read our interview with her for more.) For more info, visit boweryballroom.com.
Sub Pop CMJ Showcase at Knitting Factory
The storied Seattle record label holds its CMJ show in Williamsburg. The lineup includes Pissed Jeans, King Tuff, Metz and others. For more info, visit bk.knittingfactory.com.
The Walkmen and Dum Dum Girls at Terminal 5
New York City's own arty garage rockers The Walkmen—who really have been around for a decade!—are on tour in support of their new album, Heaven. Critics generally love the record, which—fittingly, considering its name—finds the quintet in a happy place. The Dum Dum Girls' jangly alt-pop music tackles such subjects as love, loss and life on the road. For more info, visit terminal5nyc.com.
Fat Wreck Chords/Rocks Off Showcase at Music Hall of Williamsburg
West Coast skate punks Lagwagon headline what is likely to be the moshing-est part of CMJ weekend. Also on the bill: Dead to Me, The Flatliners and Useless ID. For more info, visit musichallofwilliamsburg.com.
Flowerbooking CMJ Showcase at the Knitting Factory
This eclectic mix of electronic dance masters and remixers (Unicorn Kid and Ki:Theory), rock 'n' roll up-and-comers (Devin and Ghost Wave), melodic rock songstresses (Talk Normal) and a Memphis-born rapper (Cities Aviv) promises to please indie-music fans of many stripes. For more info, visit bk.knittingfactory.com.
Free Energy at Brooklyn Bowl
This Philly-based quintet plays good, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. Their first agenda is to get a party started, so get ready to throw your fist in the air, shake your booty and sing along. The Windish Agency Showcase also features Icona Pop, Born Ruffians and a DJ set from Penguin Prison. For more info, visit brooklynbowl.com.
Sea Wolf and Jim White at (Le) Poisson Rouge
Indie-folk band Sea Wolf, led by singer and former NYU film student Alex Brown Church, are known for their lyrically expressive tracks and artfully composed records. You may know their song “The Violet Hour,” which was featured in one of those Twilight movies. Southern country rocker Jim White also plays this showcase. For more info, visit lepoissonrouge.com.
Into It. Over It. and The Front Bottoms at Santos Party House
Indie pop-punk duo The Front Bottoms are full of surprises. “Maps,” for example, opens with a short snippet of "Anarchy in the UK" by the Sex Pistols and incorporates keyboards, synthetic strings and even a whistling hiccup. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics like “one day you’ll be washing yourself with hand soap in a public bathroom” complete the picture. They’re opening for Evan Weiss' Into It. Over It.—known for slow, emo-tinged tracks, stinging lyrics and tender riffs (a la Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional). For more info, visit santospartyhouse.com.
King Tuff at Living Bread
Hear Kyle Thomas play the catchy, energetic brand of garage rock that made his self-titled album a college radio hit this year. For what it's worth, this venue is also a deli and juice bar. Living Bread doesn't have an official website, so watch cmj.com for details.
Panache Booking Showcase with Twerps, Turbo Fruits and More at Public Assembly
Indie-pop outfit Twerps hails from Melbourne, Australia, while Nashville's Turbo Fruits play a gritty strain of garage rock that sounds a bit like The White Stripes. For more info, visit publicassemblynyc.com.
Wild Yaks at The Grand Victory
Brooklyn's own Wild Yaks put on one of the rowdiest shows you'll ever see. You may also recall that they were nycgo.com's Official Favorite Band during the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon. For more info, visit thegrandvictory.com.
Kimbra at Webster Hall
Kimbra is definitely somebody that you know. Her soulful vocals were featured on that Gotye song “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Maybe you've heard of it. The New Zealand singer brings her soulful jazz-pop sound to Webster Hall for a two-night run. For more info, visit websterhall.com.
Converse Rubber Tracks Live Celebrates Fool's Gold 5-Year Anniversary: CMJ Showcase at Music Hall of Williamsburg
When Ghostface Killah played a free show at the Prospect Park Bandshell this summer the crowd was so enormous that entry had to be curtailed, forcing a legion of fans to watch the MC’s performance from behind the park fence. Expect this free CMJ show to go down in similar fashion. The rap iconoclast and Wu-Tang Clan member will play the Music Hall of Williamsburg, backed by a lineup that includes A-Trak, Flosstradamus and Donnis, among others. For more info, visit musichallofwilliamsburg.com.
Electric Guest at Irving Plaza
Indie-poppers Electric Guest feature singer Asa Taccone, brother of The Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone. The former helped the latter produce some of his famous funny songs, and finally—with his own band—released debut album Mondo, produced by Danger Mouse, earlier in 2012, after more than six years. For more info, visit irvingplaza.com.
The Windish Agency CMJ Showcase at The Gramercy Theatre
Com Truise and Poolside headline this electro-oriented bill, but we’re most excited for the Brazilian freakazoids in Bonde do Rolê, whose punk-funk-dance instincts are impeccably tailored for short, sweet songs. For more info, visit thegramercytheatre.com.
Country Mice at Rockwood Music Hall
Four-piece band Country Mice combines Southern twang with Brooklyn indie-rock. See them sing the blues at Rockwood Music Hall as part of the Vinefield Agency & HMG PR Showcase. For more info, visit rockwoodmusichall.com.
Theophilus London at The Gramercy Theatre
Do us a favor and go listen to "I Stand Alone," the terrifyingly catchy single from London's debut album Timez Are Weird These Days. For more info, visit thegramercytheatre.com.