CMJ Is Gone…But I’m Still Here

Quick rundown of my life. I work for one of New York’s most famous and awesome food trucks, and I’m also a writer and editor for one very amazing, Working for a food truck is a demanding job, most specifically due to the hours required to keep at the top of the street food chain. Some days I wake up at 5:00 a.m. to get to work at 6:00 a.m., and I leave the truck at 4:00 p.m. Usually I come home, relax a bit, write a bit, have a drink, maybe go to a show. Last week…not so much.

Photo credit to Kei Matsuyama

Photo credit to Kei Matsuyama

For you NYC music peeps, you know that last week was the College Music Journal festival (CMJ). For those of you who aren’t so privy, CMJ is a weeklong New York festival during which a huge collection of bands play at various venues across the city pretty much every single night. This serves as a mecca of new and often local music for residents and visitors across the boroughs and a wealth of material for music writers like me. So last week, instead of going home after my 10 hour shifts on my feet, I relocated to various bars and music scenes to spend another few hours on my feet listening to what New York and its guests have to offer and not drinking, because, quite frankly, I can’t afford it. Starving artist much?

Thankfully, my struggle was not in vain, as true to form, CMJ brought me some good music. Suffice to say it wasn’t all good, but some of it was well worth the pain. Let us go in order of appearance.

NONONO– I actually didn’t see this band, technically, as part of CMJ, but they did perform a show for the festival, so I’m counting it. I saw them at Chinatown’s Le Baron as they performed their first show EVER in the United States, just before the CMJ kickoff. With a sound similar to The Knife and Metric, NONONO had my attention for the first few songs, until lyrics seemed to slip, and the beats and melodies weren’t quite enough to hold the sound together. They’ve done well for themselves and have made it all the way from Sweden to the US. With a little work, perhaps they can capture my heart.

Photo credit to

Photo credit to

Party Supplies– Can’t deny these dudes stunned me. I showed up at The Delancey to see my girl, Erin Barra, and to my pleasant surprise, the Brooklyn-based duo followed her performance. Aptly named, Party Supplies combines a variety of electronic and synth sounds to create perfect party music. The two could easily take the stage with the likes of Daft Punk, Empire of the Sun or Cut Copy and keep the audience right on track. If I’m lucky, this won’t be the last you, or I, hear from these guys.

Loveskills– The Delancey party didn’t halt once Party Supplies left the stage. On the contrary, Loveskills kept it going in full swing, channeling the spirits of Phoenix and Crystal Castles with a collection of synthy, breathy tunes even featuring a guest rap artist halfway through the set. I was even dancing in heels by the end of the performance. I’ll let you read over that a few times.

Love Crushed Velvet- I didn’t actually get to see these guys, due to a tragic oversleeping accident on my one day off. I did get to have a chat with them at Tammany Hall, though, and they’re quite friendly and charming with their personalized tats. Luckily they’re on the West Coast…of Manhattan….so I’ll still get the chance to catch them live soon. I’m recommending you do the same.

Viv and the Revival- On first glance, frontman, Viv, reminds me of a French version of Green Day’s Billy Joe. Appropriate, considering he was born in Paris. And not the one near my birth place. Relocated to Philadelphia and reborn into his own music, Viv and the Revival brought a unique sound to the CMJ stage ranging somewhere between One Republic, Lifehouse and an old school rock I can’t quite pin. Just listen for yourself.  

Chevonne and the Fuzz- We already knew about this collection of rockers, but seeing them perform live is a different story. Not a fan of televised talent shows, I’ve never seen one single episode of NBC’s The Voice, so I had no idea how Chevonne lays it down, with or without her boys. Hint: It’s like a boss. Filled with energy and power girl pop rock. Think Christina Aguilera meets No Doubt back when Gwen had pink hair. We’re done here.

Photo credit to

Photo credit to

The Lawsuits- These guys have a leg up on other indie bands from the start, since they combine the musical tones of the male and female voices into one lovely melody. Though vocalist, Brian Dale Allen Strouse, at times has more of an old school, Mellencampy vibe, it blends well with the classic choir, siren-esque nature of Vanessa Winters’ pipes to create something between Yeah Yeah Yeahs and MGMT. Don’t ask me how. Just listen to it.

Folding Legs- Even if Folding Legs couldn’t draw my attention with their leading lady’s intricate head gear onstage (they totally did), the music would do the trick. Slightly melancholy as it may be, it meshes perfectly with my mood the majority of the time, and vocalist, Katharina Stenbeck’s bare-naked voice cuts deep like no other artist I can think of. I can only compare the accent to a Norwegian singer I interviewed earlier this year. They both make me want to lay down on a cloud.

Ikes- First up on a list of international rappers at Drom, I won’t hesitate to admit that UK-based rapper, Ikes, deserved many more people on the front lines of his audience. With a voice similar to Tinie Tempeh (I mean they’re both British rappers…), Ikes came to the Drom stage locked and loaded with more energy than I’ve ever seen from one man. He laid his dynamic lines over modern, poppy beats and eventually warmed the crowd up a bit. Next year peeps better be showing up in droves for this one.

Rude Beats- Absolutely one of the most amazing performances by far this year was that of Rude Beats, rapper, singer, fucking amazing beat-boxer and so much more. But seriously, amazing beat-boxer. I’m not even sure how to describe the range of voices and noises coming from this one dude’s mouth. Hailing from the Netherlands to grace the Drom stage, Rude Beats was easily the highlight of my Thursday night.

Chief- This Swiss beatmaker and artist packs a smooth, dare I say calming, vibe much like one of my very favorites, Yasiin Bey, otherwise known as Mos Def. Along with his melodic, catchy beats, Chief’s suave, hypnotic voice creates a sound that transports his listeners to his chill, rhythmic world.  Hop on that plane.

Photo credit to

Photo credit to

Sol Cat- Again, one of my favorites of the festival this year. Hailing from the southern lands of Nashville, Tennessee, these six guys have their very own sound cultivated by the breeding of their individual flavors into one vaguely Strokes-y party vibe. These dudes are so into their music I’m not even sure if they knew the crowd was still around mid-song. Love like that is a beautiful thing. Just like their tunes.

NGHBRS– Imagine my surprise when a band at CMJ reminded me of an old-school love, Tool. Don’t get it twisted, NGHBRS don’t sound just like the eccentric, one of a kind band by any means, but these guys do bring along a very raw, rock-based characteristic, and live, vocalist Ian Kenny absolutely called on some Maynard fans. It’s like Jet started another band and had the spirit of Maynard sit in from time to time. My God, just hear it. Go. Now. 

Just like last year, I’m left wounded and sleepy but overcome with a wealth of new music to indulge myself in. And fortunately, my computer just crashed, leaving me with a naked hard drive all primed and ready to dress up with beautiful new music. Whether you have that kind of space or not, everyone needs some new music, and I just gave you a handful of options. No excuses.

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