Wait, hold on, is it really mid-October already? That means this week is probably occupied by one of two things: the World Series or the CMJ Music Marathon -- and in my case, both. This week -- roughly today through Saturday, Oct. 25, give or take a few pre and post-parties -- countless college radio kids, journalists, music industry folks descend upon New York for an endless buffet of hundreds of young and upcoming bands and musicians. And for a city already brimming with endless options and distractions, CMJ can be logistically overwhelming: For me, mapping out a schedule very quickly starts to look like some chaotic collage of photos and notes and string all plastered to my bedroom wall -- like when Claire Danes goes off her meds in Homeland.
When trying to decide where to be and which bands to seek out, you’ll see plenty of recognizable names playing this week, but discovery is sorta the name of the game for CMJ -- and it’s always exciting to come across a new band you’ve never heard of, and fall hard for. Last year alone, I caught sets from some of my now-favorite bands: Perfect Pussy, Pity Sex, Joanna Gruesome, and Hop Along. I came across some Australian songwriter whose glorious guitarwork was only out-shined by her clever, wry wordplay -- none other than Courtney Barnett. And, I also was able to see one of the first shows from the riff-heavy Mary Timony-fronted D.C. band Ex Hex.
So yeah, if you’re in New York, CMJ is the perfect chance to play a little game of fortune-telling. It's fun to try to forecast which young bands playing this year will be even bigger in six months or a year’s time. Not everything is a hit, of course, but if you're lucky, maybe you'll come away having found something new.
And to help get you started, a couple of us at Soundcheck (well, me and our intern who's actually still in college) have combed over the official schedules and less-than-official goings on to pinpoint a small handful of bands we're really excited to check out this year.