This is the first in a 5 part installment about my CMJ experience! Armed with my ears, earplugs, camera, and notebook, I saw 30 bands in 5 days.
I don’t think you can ever call yourself a professional CMJ attendee, and in my 2nd year attending, I still wouldn’t call myself a veteran either. After going to CMJ last year, and learning the do’s, don’ts, and some tricks of the trade, I would call myself a wide-eyed, but knowledgeable attendee. Walking into the first day of the festival, I did know what to expect: excitement and curiosity.
On the first day, everyone is on pure adrenaline from the moment they wake up from a restless night’s sleep, until they hop on the subway for the long ride back to where you’re crashing for the week. Most people don’t know what they are going to see/do that night, so you pal around with a group of friends, and see where the evening takes you. This is not to say that you aren’t excited or curious every other night, but you are simply getting your nose wet on Tuesday. So after dropping off all our belongings and picking up our badges (your lifeline for the week), I met up with some friends at Irving Plaza for the Ground Control Touring showcase. The show would be headlined by Jenny & Johnny (namely, Jenny Lewis and her boyfriend Jonathan Rice).
The first band I caught was La Sera, who I found out later are made up of the Vivian Girls. I wasn’t really into them (sorry Marc), but then again, I never have really into dreamy girl pop with indistinct vocals. If you like the Vivian girls, I’m sure this would be your cup of tea.
Next was the band I was most excited for, Happy Birthday! Their self-titled debut album featured one of my favorite songs of the year, “Girls FM” and I was really curious to see what they looked like, and how their music would translate live. Turns out I was very disappointed. They changed all the arrangements of their songs, played sloppy, and seemed bummed to be there. My friends didn’t even realize it was them on stage.
Next was Times New Viking, a band I had never listened to before, but heard of. They put on a crazy, energetic set, and they must have played about 20 songs in a 30 minute timeframe. They made a ton of noise, yet kept it under control with the impeccable timing of their drummer/singer. Best set of the evening!
Next was a Gallen family favorite, Wild Nothing. Sorry guys, but I don’t get the excitement about this band. They sounded like they were about to break into The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” at any moment, as well as sounding like Beach Fossils. This is a recipe for failure. We nicknamed them Cure Fossils for the rest of the week. They acted like they were too cool to be there, and were boring to listen to.
Finally the headliners Jenny & Johnny were up. I am not a huge fan of their record, but their live show was a good time. I could honestly do without Johnny, as he adds nothing to the group. Just give me Jenny Lewis so I can watch her play guitar and bass, and look good doing it. They saved the best for last, playing a 1-2 punch of “Carpetbaggers” and “The Next Messiah” from her last record Acid Tongue. The crowd went nuts for this part of the show.
I give day one a thumbs up!