Thursday, October 29, 2015

CMJ Music Marathon 2015: 35th Anniversary

2015 marked the 35th Anniversary of New York City’s massive CMJ Music Marathon.   Running from Tuesday October 13 through Saturday the 17th, the expected band overload occurred while a few significant changes took place.

The event headquarters moved from the lower east side's Rivington Hotel to the west side's Chelsea neighborhood Dream Downtown hotel.

Press credential fully secured, a bit of time allowed for checking out the original artwork adorning the walls.

Not only is there great photography on the walls, but a number of interesting sculptures could be found in prominent display.

Drawing a lot of attention was this traditional flag design which is actually made entirely out of beer cans.

The press mixer was a surprisingly lavish affair (especially by rock and roll standards) and featured some essential keynote speakers.

A food spread like this is rare as far as rock music events go - this appearing more like the corporate events one occasionally finds themselves at.  After some of the 'twigs + celery' press meals experienced earlier in the year, this buffet was welcome indeed.

A few writers take it all in at this spectacle of an event.

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With that party concluding, movement soon turned out into the streets for the first of this nights shows.

Heading over to (Le) Poisson Rouge for the SugarmamaBK presents event, arrival was made just in time to catch Sharkmuffin ready to do their set.

Fronted by the seemingly boundless energy of Tarra Thiessen, the band made the most of this not-your-typical-dive-club stage setup.

The arena-quality lighting this venue provides enhances an overall visual experience, creating a big time concert atmosphere.

Tarra dressed up for the occasion, looking particularly enchanting in a black mesh and leather-like ensemble, while her bandmates (featuring long-time collaborator and bassist Natalie Kirch) covered the ostensibly necessary attractive-blonde quota.

A current feature on the band written by yours truly can be found on The Deli Magazine here.


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Up next were a newly retooled version of an old friend of this blog - Total Slacker

A number of personnel changes have occurred since we last wrote about them here

However the mainstay and central vision of the band remains frontman Tucker Rountree.

Tucker and current bassist/foil Lydia (along with their drummer) also looked fantastic under the big concert lighting.

The new songs played sounded great, and Tucker's highly evolved guitar work is always impressive.

Big Light Show

Looking forward to hearing all the new music coming from this band going forward.

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Leaving Le Poisson Rouge and moving further downtown, it was over to the familiar lower east side stomping grounds.  This time to Rivington street's Fat Baby's for a performance by Like Herding Cats

Catching them for a midnight performance as part of the Canadian Invasion Showcase (frontman Dom is from Canada) the band put on a quality show.

A number of songs were played from their debut EP, like “Lift” which moves at an easy breezy pace, dropping in the kind of minor chord changes made popular by bands like The Cure

Dom's vocals are presented in a deep baritone, evoking Peter Murphy’s work with both Bauhaus and his subsequent solo work.

“Touch” pairs warm synth patterns with mechanical cymbals and tinkling descending keyboard lines. The mood is gentle and dreamy, like early Depeche Mode, or The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, with whom the band shares a pensive lightheartedness. “Rich Girls” builds around a calypso rhythm, shifting the emphasis on guitar and the bright percussive fills associated with that genre.

Check out the Dave Cromwell review of Like Herding Cats on The Deli Mag here

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Wednesday October 14 saw the action beginning again for me mid-afternoon.  Driving in to Manhattan proper on a weekday is never an enviable task, and finding a legal ticket-free place to park on the street even harder.  Knowing those limited areas access spots is key to automobile survival.  Fortunately I was able to once again secure one of those scarce locations.  On the walk towards the venues, interesting visuals frequently come in to focus.

I love history and I also love vintage cars.  When this anomaly was spotted, I couldn't help but take notice. This car - the Meadowbrook was produced by the Dodge automobile company, and offered as a midline trim level from February 1949 until 1952.

In 1953 the "Meadowbrook Special" series was added to replace the Wayfarer at the lower end of Dodge's lineup.

1954 was the last year of the Meadowbrook, and it had a new Powerflite automatic. Offered as a four-door or two-door sedan (called Club Coupé), it was now also available with the optional new "Red Ram" Hemi V8 engine. Buyers still flocked to the more prestigious Coronet and Royal lines, and only 15,444 were built.

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Journey through the streets completed (for this round), first stop of the night was the already packed, friendly confines of Pianos

Before the next show began, I had the best conversation with the all around awesome Heather - who was working the door entrance on this night.  It's always rewarding when you can connect with people on a number of levels (she knew all the details of one of my fave recently completed teledramas - True Detective - the 2nd Season) as well as having unique insights on the glorious - A Place To Bury Strangers.

Soon the band Beverly (fronted by the now red haired Drew Citron) took the stage.

A band I've seen and wrote about more than a few times now (see my CMJ coverage of one of their live performances last year - here ) I'm always curious to hear how it will sound each time.

They put on a particularly good show here.  As it was still early in the week (with the band scheduled to play 7 shows by the end) Drew exhibited enthusiasm in appearance and song execution.

Hey - isn't that Johnny Aires from The Drums over there?

The expected virtue of attraction.

Read my October 2014 Interview with Beverly here on The Deli Magazine.

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Since catching one of the "bigger" shows at CMJ can be an interesting activity, I headed over to Webster Hall for the much hyped Neon Indian headline event.

Arriving early to get a "good spot" up front (against the barricades) I was able to take in the opening acts as well.

First up was an artist who I'd been hearing a lot about through a number of PR blasts throughout the year.

Hannah Cohen presented a combined ethereal and jazzy feel to her music.  On discovering that her father is a noted San Francisco jazz drummer gives clearer insight to her overall sound.

Having also worked as a model for a time, her choice of t-shirt worn was buzzworthy (amongst those of us upfront - my new "best friends" well at least for this night) - as the images were of full frontally nude men.  What exactly are you attempting to say with this, Hannah?

Speaking of strap-ons, she did strap on a guitar for one song.  Well is IS  nice prop that looks good in pictures.  There may have been some actual sound coming from it and it appears she knows the essential chords.

Hannah released a record called Pleasure Boy - which perhaps gives further insights into her image branding.

--I liked her voice, which reminded me a bit of Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays (a personal fave from the golden age of music - yes, the 90's)

Speaking of 90's era heroes - one of my new "best friends" for the night was wearing this t-shirt!  Yes!  I was at 2 of those shows as well.

Next up was New York mainstay Tamaryn

Also rocking the blood red hair (a trend?) she presented a striking visual presence.

Using the big stage and subsequent backdrops to full effect.

However, perhaps because of our extremely close to the stage location, not much of her vocals could be heard.  Most of the sound we all heard (and yes, we discussed it afterwards) was heavy bass (very The Cure-like) and ethereal guitar.  Oh and the drum machine that she triggered between every song.  Getting a live drummer and cleaning up the vocal sound might be in everyone's best interest here.

Giving it her all and (one would assume) earnestly emoting for you.

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Finally it was time for the BIG TIME HEADLINER!

Much has already been written about Alan Palomo's launch of a three-pronged collaboration with CMJ Music Marathon’s technology partner Microsoft.

Presented in support of his 3rd studio album, VEGA INTL. Night School, the Microsoft technology Kinect supported the show through immersive visuals created in real time by the music and movement happening live on stage.

However, I found it a tad bit disillusioning that the "Neon Indian" has morphed from a "chillwave" synthesist (who wrote great pop songs in that genre) to something along the lines of the two funky Justin's - Timberlake and Bieber.

Oh, well - I guess nobody really wants to be poor.  Hope ya make a million dollah's, Alan.  I mean - the new tunes aren't bad - some might even actually grow on me (you know - in a dance club or when I'm dancin' or something like that) - but I really loved those chillwave pop/rock songs.  I know I know - nobody's gonna get rich on that crap . . .

Despite spending the lion's share of his time being a funky, dancing frontman, he actually DID twiddle his synths once in a while.

Which was nice to see as it's what I've always liked best about his music.

He also took some time to hammer away at timbale-style roto-toms.

Even stopping to (apparently) make a phone call from the sticks as well.

"Hi.  Can I get a large pizza delivered to Webster Hall in about 30 minutes?  k, thanks - bye!"

You had to admit that the visuals were stunningly awesome.


Microsoft - you've done it again!


We DID have a fun night, though (me and my new best friends for the night) - as witnessed in this encore vid I shot

Two days now in the books, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to go.

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