CMJ - never again
I decided to work all day rather than taking vacation because I wanted to save some vacation days for Xmas. Kat and I decided to get our badges and such during lunch to avoid any lines (which was probably a good idea because the process wasn't exactly fast, even with no line). Our first event was the Borat movie, which we waited in line for nearly two hours (well, really Kat waited in line for two hours and I showed up after I got out of work) only to find that the place was totally booked and we weren't getting in. Not a good start to the festival.
After giving up on Borat, we decided to head down to the Knitting Factory to catch the Trucks. Tuesday was a light day and the Trucks was the only show I was really interested in seeing. For those of you unfamiliar with the Knitting Factory, it is pretty much in the middle of fucking nowhere and a pain in the ass to get to because there are no subways that go directly there from the East Village/Lower East Side. To its credit though, there are three stages at the Knitting Factory so it was easy to make the decision to stay down there since there were no other shows that looked good and Voyager One was going to be playing later in the night. I had never heard of Voyager One before, but earlier in the day, they played an instudio on KEXP which was fantastic. We lounged around the Knitting Factory Old Office, waiting for the Trucks to play and after Voyager One ended called it a night, since I planned on working halfdays on Wednesday and Thursday to save another precious day of vacation.
- Tuesday Scoreboard
- Borat Movie - I still haven't seen it, and most everyone I would see it with already has. I'm going to be that loser that never sees the movie that everyone references. Awesome.
- The Boy Bathing - First off, this is a terrible band name. Telling someone you're going to watch "The Boy Bathing" is like asking Benson and Stabler to show up to your office and arrest you in front of all of your co-workers. On top of that, they are a little too Bright Eyes for my taste.
Rating: I'd skip them if they were opening for a band I really wanted to see.
- The Trucks - First off, I love this band name. They're billed as "Electro-pop" but I'd throw some of the riot grrl genre in there too. Their show was great - funny, danceable, entertaining. The only issue I had was that they tried to make the sound as bad as possible by requesting more volume from the sound engineer when they didn't need it. This would be a continuing trend at the festival. It seems that the sound engineers working these things will just do whatever the bands ask for, whether or not it makes for the best sound. Apparently bands generally do not make good sound engineers.
Rating: I'd buy tickets to see them again.
- The Sad Little Stars - We only caught about half of their set because I wanted to go upstairs and catch part of the Voyager One set. I can't remember that much about them, but I remember thinking they were pretty good and it took a little doing for me to make the call that I should get up and go watch Voyager One.
Rating: I'd show up early if they were opening for a band I wanted to see, or I might go see them if it was a slow night and I really wanted to go see some music.
- Voyager One - I liked the songs of theirs I heard as I expected. Unfortunately we missed half of their set because we were comfortable in our seats watching The Sad Little Stars.
Rating: I'd buy tickets to see them again.
Wednesday was a bit more complicated because I worked a half day, but I wanted to see the Vice Guide to Travel at noon, so I had to split up my day and work two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. That will always make your day feel strange. After getting out of the Vice movie, we stopped by the expo floor booths to pick up some free swag. We met the guys from Reverb Nation who were nice and I'm anxious to see if their website takes off. It's like a combination of a bunch of other music/networking sites (think last.fm, myspace.com, etc) but is supposed to be much more useful to the bands. The interface looks pretty slick and they gave us free t-shirts, so I have nothing but good things to say about them. We also ran into one of the guys from Pandora which was awesome because I've been a fan of Pandora for some time even if all of my stations seem to recommend Enuff's Z'Nuff. I was giving the guy working the booth a hard time about it for a while before I thought to ask him if he was one of the developers, which he was. He knows I caught on to his plans for world domination which somehow include making me listen to Enuff's Z'Nuff. After getting all the free stuff I headed back to work for the rest of the afternoon before going to the night showcases. But tonight was really just about seeing The Knife. They were playing at 11:30, which meant there was a little time to kill, but I really needed to get there early because there was no way I was going to miss their set. This was their first time to ever play in America and in a number of people's eyes, probably their last. I wasn't going to miss it, which meant I blew off most of the night to stand in line for this show. After the show we tried to get into an afterparty to see 120 Days, but it (of course) was invite only and we were screwed. Instead we went to Happy Ending for an industrial night afterparty, which turned out to be pretty fun. We met some nice people there that we will hopefully be seeing an industrial show with in the near future.
- Wednesday Scoreboard
- Vice Guide To Travel - Unlike the Borat movie, there was absolutely no line for this. We still showed up half an hour early to find that we could just walk into the theater and pick whatever seats we wanted. I think there were only 50 people in the 250 seat theater. The movie itself was entertaining, though I think the billing in the trailer is misleading because the "big names" that are referenced in this movie don't actually go to the exotic locations, they just talk about it with the Vice reporters that do. I didn't really need them in it anyway.
Rating: I would have paid to see it.
- The Whigs - I don't really have much to say about either of the bands I saw before The Knife. I was really distracted stressing about how early I needed to get in line to make it in to see The Knife.
Rating: I'm listening to music on their website right now. New York abstains.
- Hello Stranger - Wait, I remember something about this band. Their summary in the book says, "Spanish language threesome combines new wave hooks and dancey beats for a damn good time." They have one song which fits this "Es Tu Vida". You can hear it on their website. The rest of their music is totally bland and not worth putting up with in my opinion.
Rating: I'd show up for the last song of their set if they opened for a band I liked. Or if you want things to be easy, skip them altogether.
- The Knife - We waited in line for an hour to see them, just to wait in line for an hour inside for them to go on stage. The show was totally sold out. I mean fucking packed as hell. We were five people from the stage. It was absolutely worth it to me. The show was fucking awesome. Lots of visuals, and just the best songs they have. Prior to the show I only had their third album (first in the US) Silent Shout. This album is amazing. I downloaded one of their previous albums which isn't nearly as good.
Rating: Show up early, get close to the stage and dance your ass off.
I once again worked a half day, which was a little easier this time because there wasn't anything particularly early that I wanted to see. After getting out of work we headed down to the Stereogum - Yep Roc showcase for some free food and free beer. We ate the free food, drank the not so tasty beer, and left before Heavy Trash had finished rockabilly-ing me out of my mind. Thursday was just about seeing Hot Chip so after grabbing some dinner we headed on up to Webster Hall (where we saw The Knife) again to scope out a good spot. After Hot Chip ended, Kat opted to go home and I decided to try to see Forward, Russia!, which was silly because everyone else in the world was already there. The doorman informed me that they weren't letting any more CMJ badges into the show, but they would let me pay $12 to get in. Fuck that. So I went to Sin-E to see 120 Days. Sin-E is another one of those music venues that's kind of out of the way. It's in the Lower East Side, but it's at least a 15 minute walk from the nearest club and is on a desolate street where I think half the NYC crime scenes on TV take place.
- Thursday Scoreboard
- Heavy Trash - I'm not sure when it happened, but I am really sick of rockabilly.
Rating: Let's just go with no.
- Shy Child - Two piece band - drummer and singer/keyboard player. Music was forgettable, on stage presence was lacking. They should really consider getting a couple more members and filling out their sound. And writing better songs. And during the Hot Chip set, the singer was fighting with his girlfriend/wife/spouse/whatever behind us.
Rating: No thanks.
- Gang Gang Dance - We had met someone on Wednesday that had great things to say about this band. If I read a review of this show in a magazine I would expect it to start with, "Like a child who overeats halloween candy the lead singer from Gang Gang Dance can't get enough of the delay effect on her vocals. And like that child, my stomach hurts." Seriously, get her the fuck away from that delay pedal. It sounds like shit. She's not using it right at all. Musically they were ok, but not tight at all. There were numerous points where it sounded like they got out of sync with the pre-recorded material they were using. And I have no idea how you can have five (or was it six?) members in your band and still have such a need to have the majority of your music be pre-recorded loops. If you're going to use odd time signatures, you better be able to hit those notes in your sleep.
Rating: You take a guess.
- Hot Chip - Hot Chip was great as I expected them to be. I was a bit worn out from The Knife show the previous night, so Kat and I stayed up on the balcony instead of toughing it out with the capacity crowd on the floor. Their set was really good, but they didn't play "The Warning" which disappointed me. The first two bands should have been taking notes during the Hot Chip set. Hot Chip did everything right that those guys did wrong.
Rating: Once again, show up early, get close to the stage and dance your ass off.
- Favourite Sons - I'm glad I showed up for the 120 Days set early because it meant I got to see part of this set. Though it drives me crazy when Americans use British spelling, I'll let it go this time because I really liked their set. The music has this kind of doors-y feel to it, but isn't a blatant ripoff attempt. All of their songs were tight, the singer was personable, you really couldn't ask for much more.
Rating: I'd pay to see them again.
- 120 Days - I have to admit, these guys looked like total douches whenever they started hauling their equipment onto the stage. Everything in the fucking world went wrong while they were setting up too. They didn't have enough space to set up all of their equipment, which mean they only had half of their drumset. Something was going wrong with the drum machine so it kept cutting out. The monitors by the drummer weren't working. The had horrible feedback any time the monitor volumes were adjusted. Fucking horrendous. They started their midnight set 45 minutes late and people were starting to give up on them. They got about halfway through a song before they gave up because it just wasn't working. They only really managed to play two songs, one of which was a Stooges cover (which worked out pretty well). I stuck around for their entire set because I knew I wasn't going to see any other bands that night and for their last song they finally had their equipment working. That song was good, but the rest of the set kind of blew.
Rating: I'm torn because they really do look like a bunch of douches. I'd likely buy a ticket to see them though because I like their music, but I'd curse their douche-baggery the whole time.
Friday I was most concerned with seeing the Tenacious D movie. I didn't really have any plans beyond that, so once we finished with the movie, before going to the afterparty I sat down at the computer and made some quick picks. We headed down toe Sin-E, where I had just suffered through the 120 Days non-set the previous night and got free drinks, free bags, and a free Tenacious D poster. After getting a few drinks on an empty stomach, we picked up some food before heading to the Mercury to eventually catch Tokyo Police Club. After Tokyo Police Club I decided to start heading home rather than catching the Albert Hammond Jr. (one of the guys from the Strokes) set, I think I made a good decision, it was too fucking packed in there to stay. So I started making the walk home and stopped by Irving Plaza to see Architecture in Helsinki (well, more to see Irving Plaza since I had never been before). Exhausted from the week, I was home and asleep by 12:45.
- Friday Scoreboard
- Tenacious D Movie - Hilarious. Go see it.
Rating: Buy tickets, see the movie.
- Tenacious D afterparty - Apples in Stereo, Cinematics, Miho Hatori, IV Thieves - Apples in Stereo were overrated. Not so good. Cinematics were alright, I expect to see them blowing up MTV soon enough, Miho Hatori was like a new cibbo matto, which was cool and I don't really remember what IV Thieves were like.
- Land of Talk - A lot of people were blown away by Land of Talk. I thought they were just alright. Not spectacular, but not a letdown either.
Rating: I might see them again.
- Cloud Cult - they had two artists on stage that painted pictures during the set. The pictures were pretty nice and on sale to the highest bidder after the set. I find the concept interesting and and the paintings were pretty good. The show was really great.
Rating: I would pay to see them again. (though I passed on their Monday post-CMJ show as I was exhausted from the CMJ Marathon)
- Tokyo Police Club - These guys fucking rocked. I swear they must have played 20 songs because almost all of their songs are less than 3 minutes (most I believe are under 2). I would have bought their cd.
Rating: I'd pay to see them again.
- Architecture in Helsinki - They're like an Australian B-52s. I was tired. I didn't stay.
Rating: Eh, I wouldn't go out of my way to see them.
Saturday was another light day. There were no bands that I was dying to see with the exception of day shows and those were either totally packed or invite only, which is a big fuck-you to anyone who paid $400 for a fucking badge. We tried to get into the Brooklyn Vegan day party, but it was seriously packed. We went up to a club I had never heard of called Lit Lounge to see a band from Austin I had never heard of (they sucked) and then went to see Pablo, met some people there and ended up at some cheesy bar in the financial district. And that's how we closed out CMJ.
- Saturday Scoreboard
- Pablo - I skipped reviews of the other stuff that we slightly saw because it's not even worth mentioning. But Pablo, fuck yeah they're awesome. And they're the super-nicest guys you'd ever meet. I chatted them up a bit while I was buying their cd and Paul (singer) and Brian (drummer) were really friendly and genuinely nice people. I'm glad I got to see them.
Rating: Buy tickets, go see them.
So why do I say never again? Because the badge doesn't guarantee admittance to anything. You can buy tickets to any of the shows and then not have to suffer the waiting in line and the potential for getting turned away because a show is sold out. And that will cost you much less than the badge.
I will likely go to some of the CMJ shows again, but I'll just buy tickets to the shows that I want to see. The only thing exclusive to the badge is getting to go the panels (which I don't care to go to) and the movies (of which there were only three that I wanted to see). I'd rather just figure out how to get on the list for the free shows, pay for tickets to the bands I want to see at night and save myself $200. Yeah, that sounds way better.