For five days starting October 13, the CMJ Music Marathon will bring 1,000-plus bands to New York City. Many of the artists hope to catch the eye of fans and industry influencers on their way to becoming the Next Big Thing™. Green Day, Lady Gaga and the Arcade Fire are among the many now-megastars who have played the festival, so it can definitely pay serious popularity dividends.
If you're looking to do nothing but go to shows all day and night—and attend panel discussions, too—by all means buy a badge. But if you just want to catch a few sets, you'd probably be better off buying tickets one at a time. Read on for our picks.
October 13, 15 and 16
Frankie Cosmos at Baby’s All Right, Knitting Factory and The Wick
Frankie Cosmos is the alter ego of 20-year-old Greta Kline, aka the daughter of Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline. The bloodlines are good; the winsome swinging and sharp songwriting better. For tickets to the first show, visit ticketfly.com; for the second, visit ticketweb.com. You can attend the final night at the Wick with no more than an RSVP.
Panda Bear at Bowery Ballroom
Animal Collective's Noah Lennox puts out his creative solo work under the name Panda Bear. His grab bag of influences adds up to a pleasing sound. There are different openers every night, so check boweryballroom.com for details. The shows are sold out, so your best bet might be StubHub.
Tobias Jesso Jr. at Music Hall of Williamsburg
This tousled piano man (a recent convert from bass playing) writes slow, soulful songs that echo early '70s singer-songwriters like Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. His voice may not quite match the former's or his lyrics the latter’s, but his direct honesty and elegant craftsmanship provide a welcome counterpoint to today's pop music. The shows are sold out; for tickets, try stubhub.com.
Neon Indian, Tamaryn and Hannah Cohen at Webster Hall
Headliner Neon Indian is a young Texan who cranks out chillwave and electronica. He's also collaborated with the Flaming Lips. For tickets, visit ticketweb.com.
October 14, 16 and 17
Eternal Summers at The Rock Shop, Knitting Factory and
This trio from Roanoke, Virginia, puts out dreamy, propulsive rock that might find you bobbing your head and/or gazing at shoes. The band's latest, the catchy, concise Gold and Stone, hit in June. Get tickets for the first, second or third nights.
Mercury Rev at (Le) Poisson Rouge
These beloved psych rockers have been around the track a few times, but their new release, The Light in You, shows there is still plenty left in the tank. For tickets, visit lepoissonrouge.com.
Titus Andronicus and Ex Hex at Warsaw
Titus Andronicus just dropped an epic rock opera, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, which adds a whole lot of tuneful power pop to the Jersey band’s punk arsenal. They’ll find fitting partners on the bill in DC trio Ex Hex. The show’s sold out, but you can always try stubhub.com.
Exploding in Sounds Records Official CMJ Showcase at Palisades
Out of the big lineup for this show, we're most excited about Palm—an upstate New York band that pumps out noise-rock/post-punk sounding songs somewhere between Battles and the Dismemberment Plan (maybe with Dirty Projectors thrown in). Lvl Up, meanwhile, is low on both vowels and something called “fi.” We like 'em. For more info, visit palisadesbk.com.
Shannon and the Clams with Sheer Mag at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Punk meets classic rock (and a ton of distortion) when Philadelphia's Sheer Mag takes the stage. Imagine the Nerves, but faster and louder with a female vocalist. The headliners, Shannon and the Clams, hail from Oakland and play an eclectic brand of garage punk. Tickets are sold out, but you can try stubhub.com.
Le1f at Cameo Gallery
Le1f laid down the beats for Das Racist’s “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”, which would be plenty to recommend him (says this reviewer), but subsequent mix tapes plus a solo album, Riot Boi, out this fall, have brought his own considerable quick-strike rap skills to the fore. Empress Of and Porches are also on this collaborative showcase. It’s free with a CMJ badge or an RSVP.
The Wonder Years and Motion City Soundtrack at Webster Hall
The highlight of this pop-punkish co-headlining bill is the Minneapolis-based Motion City Soundtrack. The scene veterans' new album, Panic Stations, is more of the synth-heavy, polished stuff that made them famous in the first place. For tickets, visit ticketweb.com.