CMJ Music Marathon 2014

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photo (2)Taking place at over 80 venues across Manhattan and Brooklyn this year with more than 1,300 artists performing, CMJ’s annual Music Marathon certainly did not disappoint. So many young, eager bands to check out, so little time. In contrast to my last few years of attending and covering this festival, I decided to just wing it this year instead of doing lots of research on the bands ahead of time. I chose a handful of my favorite venues, took a few tips from friends, and just plunged in head first.

After attending the fantastic and well-attended CMJ panel discussion, “Ripping Off the Band-Aid: Why Feminism Matters in the Music Industry,” earlier in the day at NYU, I was pretty jazzed up to see the all-female, NYC-based rock band New Myths tear it up only a few hours later at Union Hall. The ladies seemed to be having a fun time and Marina Ross killed it with her vocals that ranged from light and ethereal to dark and husky, falling in the vein of Annie Lennox.

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Despite the disgustingly rainy and windy weather on Wednesday night, Rockwood Music Hall still seemed to have an excellent turnout. Brooklyn-based band Animal Years rocked Stage 2 with its southern-tinged, classic rock music that brought to mind such acts as early Kings of Leon, The Band and My Morning Jacket. What really makes or breaks a band for me is the lead vocalist. Even if I love the rest of the band, if I don’t like or connect with the singer, I lose interest. But frontman Mike McFadden’s beautiful and strong, yet still rockin’ vocals kept me enrapt.

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Next up, on a whim, I decided to run over to Arlene’s Grocery to check out who was playing there. A duo (though from what I could see, there was only one dude on stage), called Arms and Sleepers was just setting up. Typically just the words “electronic music” will have me running for the door, but in the spirit of CMJ and experiencing new things, I thought I’d stay and see what’s up. Combining pre-recorded electronic beats with keyboards that he played live, there was something rather entrancing way-too-cool-for-school about the performance. Mixed with the morphing psychedelic images projected onto a screen behind him, I have to admit, I didn’t hate it. But that’s just this reviewer’s opinion. The audience, for the most part, seemed to be incredibly into the performance and having a great time.

For the final night of the Music Marathon, I took a tip from a friend and decided to hang out at the BrooklynVegan showcase at Baby’s All Right in South Williamsburg. Highlights from that show included the all-female rock band Cayetana and the all-dude rock band Beach Slang, both based in Philly. The girls of Cayetana were tight, rockin’ and having a fun time playing. The boys of Beach Slang, who clearly had some hardcore fans in the audience that sang along the whole time, brought to mind early 90’s punk music. As the main page of the band’s website states, Beach slang is, “Guitar, bass and drums. Played loudly.” My still-ringing ears can attest to this. They were a ton of fun though, thanking “Modelo for…vibes tonight” and ending their set Keith Moon-style by knocking over the drum set and mics.

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Honestly, you can see all the giant acts at the Garden and Barclays you want, but you really just can’t beat the level of enthusiasm that some of these new bands have. There’s something so exciting and fresh that happens each year at the CMJ Music Marathon. If you haven’t yet experienced it, I highly recommend joining in the fun next year.

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Julie Kocsis is Associate Editor and a contributing writer of ShortAndSweetNYC.com. Living in Brooklyn, she works for Penguin Random House during the day and writes about rock bands at night. In addition to her many band interviews as well as album and concert reviews that have been published on ShortAndSweetNYC.com, she has also been published on The Huffington Post, Brooklyn Exposed and the Brooklyn Rail.

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