CMJ Week

Written by Adam Heimlich on . Posted in Posts.


But, seeing as the problem with CMJ
stems from people–both musicians and fans–striving to appear as if
they’re not striving, I suppose it’s worth making an effort to support
the cause of effort. If I had a bully pulpit from which to address all the college-radio
brats who come here for CMJ, I’d say, "You guys bring a mixture of
clueless innocence, which is refreshing, and clueless posturing, which is not
only annoying, but also in violent conflict with our local traditions (despite
what you see in the East Village–that’s new). So be comfortable with
yourselves. The same air of ennui that got you so far on campus–all the
way to station manager!–here just means you’re lazy rich kids. No
matter how many CMJs you’ve been to, you are inexperienced tourists, and
the whole New York thing is to be what you are, without fear. It takes courage
and energy. Also, be mindful about blocking the sidewalk and for chrissakes
don’t wear your festival badge to brunch."



Despite my endeavors, CMJ
crowds won’t dance. Incredible boogie sets by master DJs will be wasted
on lemur-like beings mysteriously compelled to gather around the turntables
and gawk. Through complaining (for the moment), I’ll simply point out that
at CMJ it’s wiser to see shows featuring bands, where at least audiences
who stand around watching are actually watching something. That means on Wednesday
night skipping the empty promise of the opening-night party at
Roxy–which
features the
Jungle Brothers,
Aphrodite, Wiseguys, Cut Chemist, Jurassic 5, Femi Kuti, To Rococo Rot, Fantastic
Plastic Machine and Hardknox–even though that bill seems to present
a decent sampler platter of what’s new and good in new college music these
days. (9/15, 515 W. 18th St., betw. 10th & 11th Aves., 645-5156.) It’ll
all fall flat at the nailed-down feet of self-conscious badgeholders. Better
to go see what
Willie Nelson
pulls out at the
Bottom Line
(9/15, 15 W. 4th St. at Mercer St., 228-6300) or, if you insist on at least
new-ish music (this is, after all, the newish Jew year),
Sparklehorse,
Wheat, Beulah and Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian are at the

Knitting Factory
.
(9/15, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church St. & B’way, 219-3055.)


Seeing bands at CMJ presents
one problem you don’t get as much of at deejayed events: A&R weasels.
The indie-country scene at this year’s CMJ will be as infested as ever,
with guys in Don Johnson suits and goatees hoping to sell music inspired by
the Band, Byrds and Neil Young to Garth Brooks’ audience. That’s depressing,
but maybe not as much as having your expectations for real rock dashed. Nonetheless,
in the spirit of energy and courage I recommend diving headlong into that very
risk on Thursday.
Distortion
Felix
and
Caustic Resin
play
early sets at
CBGB
(9/16, 7 p.m., 313 Bowery at Bleecker St., 982-4052), then try either the

Donnas
(9/16, 10:30
at the decidedly non-rockin’
Life,
158 Bleecker St., betw. Thompson & Sullivan Sts., 420-1999), who might barrel
straight through the bullshit, or the
Quasi/Spoon
show at
Brownies
(9/16, 8:30, 169 Ave. A, betw. 10th & 11th Sts., 420-8392), where the crowd
might be so densely packed and the bands so professional as to incite rocking
in trendoids otherwise not inclined to rock (shutup!–I’ve seen it
happen I swear). Then the move is to
Wetlands
for
Queens of the Stone Age.
(9/16, midnight, 161 Hudson St. at Laight St., 966-4225.) I’m hoping that
people there will be drunk and stoned enough to enact the pagan response the
cult of Kyuss demands. If I were optimistic I’d go to the Herbaliser show
back at Roxy, where the London hiphop duo will play with a full funk band and
guest MCs, and it’ll be extremely fun if a critical mass of people who
are not record collectors somehow shows up.


Friday brings a show where
you’re actually supposed to watch the DJ, and as it’s not part
of CMJ, the
Technics/

DMC DJ World Championships
(9/17-18 at Hammerstein
Ballroom
, 311 W. 34th
St., betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 307-7171) should bring a crowd willing to have
fun in public. On the very same night, the New York rapper bent on bringing
the old battle mentality to college-aimed hiphop,
Pharoahe
Monch
, will be at
S.O.B.’s
(with Reflection Eternal, High & Mighty, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Afu-Ra and others,
all opening for Rahzel of the Roots). Former Organized Konfusion member Monch
should be appointed New York’s Commissioner of Nightlife for his current
hit "Simon Says," in which the bullhorn-voiced MC exhorts the knapsack
crowd to "Get the fuck up!" explaining, "If you’re
holding up the wall then you’re missing the point." That and the certainty
of a rip through Monch and Sahdeeq’s collaboration "WWIII"–the
most raucous hiphop track of the year until "Simon Says" came out–make
this show the most likely exception to CMJ ’s lemur rule. (9/17, 204 Varick
St. at W. Houston St., 243-4940.)


That’ll all happen
on the late side. For early Friday night, John Strausbaugh offers this reminder:
"Marianne Nowottny, the Jersey teen, sings in an astonishingly grownup
voice and accompanies herself on keyboards she most often programs to ooze up
and down like a calliope or glockenspiel on the bottom of the sea. Her beautifully
wobbly dreamscapes are reducing rock critics like the Times’ Jon
Pareles to utter confusion, which is one good sign. But I really knew she was
onto something when I was playing her CD in the office earlier this year and
somebody came down the hall to offer me $1 to turn it off." She’s
at the
Knitting Factory’s
li’l Old Office.


Friday’s looks-good-but-won’t-be
option is the
Breakbeat Era/Roni
Size
thing at Westbeth
(9/17, 151 Bank St., betw. West & Washington Sts., 741-0391), and the alt-country
tossup is the
Pernice Brothers,
Sally Timms and Jon Langford show at
Mercury
Lounge
. (9/17, 217
E. Houston St., betw. Ludlow St. & Ave. A, 260-4700.) At least at that one
Don Johnson Junior won’t be shouting into his cell phone about possibly
signing the headliner, but on the downside, it’s hard to imagine Langford
being all that psyched to play for conventioneers. Better, perhaps, to get drunk
and try
Continental,
where
Electric Frankenstein,
Raging Slab (I wonder how it feels to play for college students who weren’t
born the first time you played for college students) and Jersey’s Atomic
Bitchwax lay groundwork for the next hard rock revival. (9/17, 25 3rd Ave. at
St. Marks Pl., 529-6924.) More contemporary collegiate "punk" style
will be on display Friday at Jade Tree Records’ showcase at Wetlands (
Jets
to Brazil
, Promise
Ring, Joan of Arc and Euphone), so go check that out if you’re long past
graduation and curious about how things have changed–unless earnestly emotional
indie-rock pussies who can’t quite write a good song upset you.


Saturday brings another
of those hugely promising bills, like the opening-night party, combining a bunch
of disparate beat music in a multileveled venue. With
Ming
& FS
at midnight,
then Cassien, Raymond Roker, Jungle Sky’s Wally and Soulslinger, L.A. underground-hiphop
comers Styles of Beyond, Brooklyn’s Medina Green and illbients ’til
dawn, it’d be interesting any other weekend. On this one, even material
from Ming & FS’ singularly bugged new album Hell’s Kitchen
is unlikely to jar anyone out of touristical self-consciousness. After four
days of round-the-clock cocktail hour, college-station program directors can
be given a pass for failing to participate in this one, as they surely will
(it’s also at Wetlands).


One more time: Saturday’s
to-rock-or-not-to-rock dilemma will be presented by Sub Pop’s showcase
at
CBGB
(
Hellacopters,
Zen Guerrilla, Murder City Devils, Go), and the hope-for-the-best hiphop ritual
will be up at
Downtime,
brought to you by Subversive, the new (formerly 3-2-1) indie-rap company run,
in part, by
Bigg Jus
of Company Flow. Jus himself will perform for the first time in a while, along
with some of the excellent and mostly unheard groups he signed: Chicago’s
Rubberoom, Minneapolis’ Micronots, Brooklyn’s Skeme Team and Jersey’s
Scienz of Life. (9/18, 251 W. 30th St., betw. 7th & 8th Aves., 695-2747.)


Don’t forget that
at CMJ you can always do like the A&Rs do and choose bands by their name.
In my case that’d mean seeking out
Gay
Dad
(Fri., 10 p.m.,
at Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. at Bowery, 533-2111),
Yanni
DiFranco
(Fri., 11,
at the Baggot Inn) and Gangsta Bitch Barbie (Thurs., 10, at
Acme
Underground,
9 Great Jones St. at Lafayette St., 420-1934), and, probably, finding myself
face-to-face with dudes in Spam t-shirts, checkerboard Vans and keyboards on
guitar straps. Like I said, all we can ask for is that everyone does their best.
Anyway, the complete festival schedule (there’s also movies and panels,
y’know) is very well presented at www.cmj.com.


Finally, those interested
in skipping CMJ should know that starting Thursday the Guinness Bass Import
Co. presents "
Laugh Your
Bass Off
," featuring
special promotions and performances at all your favorite standup venues. Also
pretty amusing should be the Animal Defense League’s "
Bloody
Fur Giveaway
"
at the
Macy’s
in Rego Park
Sunday, where activists will "offer free furs to Macy’s customers
from a pit of blood." (9/19, noon-3 p.m., Queens Center Mall, 90-01 Queens
Blvd., Elmhurst, 718-274-4443 for info.) For more laughs, the new Fox program
Action premieres Thursday night at 9:30–I heard from a reliable
correspondent that it’s the funniest and ballsiest show to be seen this
fall.


Three notable readings
this week:
Kurt Andersen
from his Turn of the Century (if you read enough media to know who Andersen
is, you’ll probably enjoy his book), Thursday at
Coliseum
Books
(9/16, 6:30
p.m., 1771 B’way at 57th St., 757-8381);
Edmund
White
, universally
acclaimed (that means I haven’t read him) biographer of Proust and Genet,
Tuesday at
KGB
(9/21, 7 p.m., 85 E. 4th St., betw. 2nd Ave. & Bowery, 988-1197); and one
of Heimytown’s heroes, the always entertaining and provocative New York
novelist
Daniel Evan Weiss,
reading from his epic poem Honk If You Love Aphrodite Thursday at
Housing
Works Cafe
. (9/16,
7 p.m., 126 Crosby St., betw. Houston & Prince Sts., 334-3324.)



adam@nypress.com


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