The 29th annual CMJ Music Marathon kicked off last night here in New York, with over 1,200 artists playing some 60 venues around downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Obviously, I'm only able to see a small fraction of all the gigs in town this week - and my badge only gets me into venues that haven't yet reached their quota (somewhere between 40-50 per venue) - so expect a random assortment based more on chance than choice. Which, hopefully, will yield at least one or two new discoveries.
I started out last night at S.O.B.'s, where Eldar played the 8pm set. The 22 year old pianist possesses a phenomenal, lightning-fast technique that's nominally jazz but goes well beyond it into rock and fusion, aided by
Next, it was a quick stop by NYU's Kimmel Center for a student showcase in their a 4th floor performance space that has lights and sound that would be the envy of most NYC clubs. I caught Bennett Jackson & The Ranch Hands, who could best be described as a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. Fortunately, there were cans of iced Cafe Bustelo to provide a well-needed jolt.
From there, it was a 10 minute walk over to Ace of Clubs on Great Jones Street to catch 28 North: a straight-up outfit from Pittsburgh who play classic rock mixed with ska, jazz and funk. It wasn't my particular cup of tea, but it was a refreshing breeze in CMJ's vast sea of indieness.
For the 11p show, I walked over to Bowery Electric to catch Awesome New Republic: a Miami trio who sounded straight out of the 80's, mixing drum machines and synths into their dancey rock (fronted by the charismatic Michael John Hancock on guitar and vocals.) Funny, I didn't even know the "Magic City" had a scene, though I'm not surprised to learn their rock is heavily laced with electronica.
I ended my night at Bowery Ballroom, where I was happy to see old favorites Jukebox the Ghost headlining, to a room nearly filled with enthusiastic fans who happily clapped and danced. Which is no mean feat, given lead singer/pianist Ben Thornewill's penchant for clipped meters and offbeat melodies. Unfortunately, this was Jukebox's final NYC gig this year, as guitarist Tommy Siegel will be having surgery on his vocal chords as soon as the band finishes recording their new album.
Back out tonight for more fun. See you out there! (More pics below.)