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CMJ Music Festival
Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson and Evan Sung

Opposite: Two Gentlemen
Photo Credit: Amy Davidson

It's no secret that New York City is a breeding ground for bands and musicians. Every day in the clubs, bars, coffee shops, lofts and basements of this city musical alchemists refine their craft in an attempt to turn plastic demo CDs into platinum records. On any random day an adventurous spirit and a curious ear can lead anyone into one of the city's myriad venues to hear the next "It" band in the making. Even this abundance and variety of musical offerings, however, is nothing compared to New York in the fall, for the dropping temperatures and shortening days signal not only the end of summer, but also the beginnings of the annual CMJ Music Marathon. This year the 27th installment of College Music Journal's five-day festival spanned over sixty clubs and featured over a thousand bands. New underground acts like Bon Iver, Matt and Kim and Elk City were featured alongside underground veterans the Islands and the recently reunited Lifetime. About-to-blow-up acts like Black Kids and St. Vincent graced CMJ stages as well as such long-time fan favorites as Saves the Day, Mates of State and Spoon.

Sean of Sam Champion
Photo Credit Amy Davidson

Several bands recognizable from past NewYorkCool reviews were in attendance as well. My Teenage Stride, Celebration, Beat the Devil, the Harlem Shakes and Sam Champion have all been reviewed on these pages and made appearances during the festival. Though there were more up-and-coming bands than any ten journalists could hope to cover our humble stable of writers caught what shows we could and distilled what we heard to present a taste of some of the best new music of the extravaganza.

At Pianos on the opening night hard and fast rock rose to the top as The Octagon and the Unsacred Hearts managed to shine brightest — not an easy task when playing in the fantastic line-up that was present.

Two Gentlemen
Photo Credit Amy Davidson

The cheeky, irreverent hilarity of the Two Man Gentleman Band managed to make an impression as well that night in one of the most unique sets of the entire week.
Later in the week the Sahara Hot Nights put on a stellar show at the Bowery Ballroom followed by the just as impressive Alberta Cross.

Maria Andersson of Sahara Hotnights
Photo Credit Evan Sung

Photo Credit Evan Sung

The Maccabees rounded out that night in addictive fashion with a set of driving power-pop.

At the Fillmore The Apes took the stage making quite an impression with a dissonant, visceral style.

They were followed by hip-hop duo Yo Majesty whose rhymes were as tight as a hipster’s pants, and the always entertaining Spank Rock.

As another CMJ Music Marathon drew to a close all those lucky enough to attend any of the dates came away richer, with at the very least one new band to join the others in our CD racks and on our hard drives. We’ll see in the coming weeks and months which bands have splashed big enough to create far-reaching ripples that will carry their music to all corners of the country and world. In the end, more than a plethora of shows, more than partying with the bands, getting the word out about new music is what CMJ is all about. And we at NewYorkCool are glad to do our part.


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