Another Fall has graced New York City with its presence, meaning that another CMJ Music Marathon has come and gone. At this time last week, our bodies (read: livers and eardrums) were being put through a gauntlet of scrambling around the city, arguing with friends over which act to catch, and being devastated (or ecstatic) with the choices that we made. It's an annual tradition. But, year after year, we're always expecting a different outcome, thinking that this year will outdo the last. It never does.
The festival has become too overhyped, too overproduced, and too polished. It isn't supposed to be about going to see some big name play a huge room. It's supposed to be about finding new bands that embody the DIY spirit of music. It's not about going to some all night after-party in Bushwick to listen to house music 'til four in the morning. It's about calling in sick to go check out some no-name band at three in the afternoon that you'll spend the rest of the week raving about to your friends. It's about the sense of adventure of going to a show based on nothing more than a few words scribbled in a random blog post and a two track EP you dug through ten pages of Google search results to find, knowing that it'll all pay off when you hear those first raucous notes of a guitar spring from the amplifiers. It's rediscovering that aspect of music that made us passionate about it in the first place and the sense of wonder you get when you find that band that made it all worth it...that you know will see every single time they're in town. Though the festival seems to have gotten away from such tradition, there were a few bands that made it worth it.
Combining the indie-pop sensibilities of Yucks first album paired with the tenacity, aggression, and distortion of an early 90s punk band, Joanna Gruesome was one of the most talked about acts of this years CMJ (not to mention a personal favorite). The band dazzled listeners with song after song on their debut Weird Sister that had everyone in the crowd moving. Needless to say, beer was spilt, heads were banged, and Joanna Gruesome told us how they dream of pulling out our teeth. Well happily grin out toothless smiles as long as they keep the music coming.
It seemed like you couldn't talk to anyone about CMJ without this band's name popping up. The quartet from Massachusetts was one of the busiest bands of the week, playing several songs off their excellent Major Arcana across the city and blowing listeners away with their special brand fuzz-pop. Singer Sadie Dupuis' lyrics range from the romantically melancholic ('I was better of just being dead / But I didn't know you yet) to the playfully vulgar ('I'm getting my dick sucked on the regular') with plenty of range in between, ensuring that this is not an act to miss.
Though this band may not be as new to the scene as our two previous entries, they encapsulate the spirit of the festival. Weekend is a hardworking band that puts out great albums then relentlessly tours to support the fruits of their labors. Their live shows aren't necessarily about the songs as a piece but more about the experience of hearing them live amid the inter-tangling tones that define the band's sound. It also doesn't hurt that these are usually delivered at full volume, just to enhance the experience that much more.