If anyone's guessing that CMJ Music Marathon is slowing down after 27 years running, the 1,000-plus bands and packed audiences stated otherwise. The diverse lineup from October 16-20, coupled with New York's legendary venues, brought out droves of industry professionals, artists and fans alike.
The Music Hall of Williamsburg kicked off Tuesday's opening night with Dallas rockers the Hourly Radio, who paved the way for a theatrical set from UK's IAMX. Headed up by former Sneaker Pimps member, Chris Corner, IAMX brought the glam back to glam rock, replete with loads of eyeliner and a yellow sequined hat. Throughout the show, most of the crowd didn't seem to mind the ostentatiousness as they cheered on every song. Appropriately, IAMX's awesome circuslike anthem, “President” (with its dramatic and infectious refrain, “I will be president!”), closed the show.
Wednesday night, the Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel hosted a much-anticipated Fool's Gold Records showcase. A ridiculously long line around the block didn't deter a rash of hip-hop enthusiasts and hipster kids who were anxious to bounce to the sounds of '80s-style hip-hop and new wave. The swanky bar/lounge had a Chinese industrial warehouse/Blade Runner feel that ironically complemented the throwback sounds of the evening. Images of clunky, early model cell phones and Chicago Bulls basketball footage from their championship days were projected behind the stage. Brooklyn represented its own with Kid Cudi and Chicago's ghetto queen Kid Sister — along with Fool's Gold founder and DJ A-Trak — kickstarting the night. Naturally, “Pro Nails” (Kid Sister's single with guest rapper, Kanye West), was a set highlight. Later, the Cool Kids rocked the house with their superminimal '80s beats and rhymes about gold and pagers. And Paris, France's Kavinsky played his own Knight Rider-style beats, along with current dancefloor hits, past 2 a.m., creating a sweaty end to the night.
Thursday was a big night for Holy Fuck, who more than competently opened for UNKLE at Webster Hall. The four-piece had the crowd engaged as it played a set of instrumental rock/electronic/noise all the while interchanging vintage synths and Melodica into its songs. But it was UNKLE for whom the crowd was there, and the duo didn't disappoint as it played its new album, War Stories (Surrender All, 2007), pretty much in its entirety. Although anticipating a slew of guest vocalists to show up, the crowd was at least treated to an appearance from Cult frontman, Ian Astbury, as well as animated Gorillaz-style projections of vocalists who couldn't make the tour.
Saturday evening was a whirlwind of frantic cab rides cross-town, doormen with curious lisps and nonstop disappointment after being turned away for having “enough press” inside the shows. Spoon, Justice and Band of Horses apparently didn't need any more coverage. (The same went for M.I.A. and MSTRKRFT on Friday. Grr!) The night ended at a lower-key show for Wooden Shjips at the Annex in the Lower East Side. Opening band Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears didn't hold back as the lead singer and keyboardist — resembling a ghostly Oscar Wilde, complete with velvet suit and Halloween make-up — put his undead energy into rocking out full-bore. And the goodie bags given away at the door made more sense as Remix munched on gummy skulls and marshmallow eyes. Finally, San Francisco's Wooden Shjips stepped up to the stage and displayed their penchant for psychedelic minimalist garage rock to an agreeable crowd, ending the night and the festival with a satisfied grin.