We’ve covered a lot of festivals and a lot of shows. Usually, we know what we are getting into before we arrive, but occasionally, we find ourselves constantly tripping over our own big, dumb, fat feet. That is exactly what happened at this year’s CMJ Festival. We were rookies rolling into Austin for SXSW this March, but we were there long enough to get our feet underneath us. It just didn’t happen at CMJ. Not laying blame here. We should have known that 24 hours wasn’t enough to tackle something as massive as CMJ. I mean, how could we even begin to tackle even 1/5 of 1,500 bands in 80+ venues without a serious game plan… which, of course, we didn’t have either.
If you don’t already hold total disdain for us and this completely lackluster review-to-be, then just stop reading now. If you want to read about our total flub of festival coverage (and a few tips for future CMJ goers) keep reading.
No Country checked in at the press booth with the intention to check out Eleanor Friedberger, who was performing at the Judson Memorial Church starting at 12:30. Err, scratch that, we roll in to see the art pop songstress breaking down her gear because it started at Noon (Failure #1). No worries, we have our passes, and there is a lot more music to see when we hit the ground running in the morning. Meetings happen throughout the rest on Friday, and that bulky program that they handed us was totally unwieldy without a large purse or college sized back-pack. So, we threw that thing in the first trash can that we saw (Failure #2). Meetings took up the rest of the day and night, before we drifted off into a peaceful slumber ready for 24 hours of absolute insanity.
We made our way to Williamsburg, Brooklyn expecting a full day of action on the more ironically hip side of the East River. Looking for parking, we passed a small crowd gathered outside of The Knitting Factory, and promptly realized that this review will lack any photos at all because the camera was still in our friends’ spare bedroom that we were occupying for the weekend (Failure #3). C’est la vie, it was off to check out Yuck! who was performing in the middle of an interesting lineup. Lots of milling around happened until finally it was announced that Yuck! wasn’t going to be able to make it (Failure #4, though not our fault). We stuck around to enjoy a set from Amsterdam-hailing 60’s-inspired, spaghetti western, psych popsters Jacco Gardner.
We finally saw a band, and it was great! Having seen Nick Waterhouse perform here in Nashville before, we opted to head out to Brooklyn Bowl to see what was going on, and to grab a bite. While eating, strange partial music blurbs were taking place on the opposite side of the impressively large New York venue, and, upon seeing the completely empty dancefloor in front of the stage, it was clear that we were there during soundcheck (Failure #5). However, we did sit in awe as a British duo known as Public Service Broadcasting, played with some electronic-backed frenetic party music consisting of a banjo and bad-ass drummer that evokes comparisons to The Avalanches or Propellerheads.
A light rain started as we made our way to check out Glasslands. Surely this late-afternoon soundcheck was just a fluke during CMJ Festival. We rolled in to another completely empty venue to see a very hip three piece on stage, and immediately knew this was another soundcheck (Failure #6).
At least there wasn’t a line for the bathroom and while relieving a few afternoon beers, we realized that it was Hospitality on stage. We probably would have known sooner that if we hadn’t thrown away our schedule book, which apparently you can only get at the check in booth. Slightly defeated, we slouched into a local (by way of San Francisco) sausage and beer hall to try to figure out what to do next. Either take the time to hop a train into Manhattan, or stick around to see if we can make it to Father John Misty? We opted for the latter and made it into Williamsburg Hall of Music just in time to catch the former Fleet Fox pull off an intimate performance with a scantily clad woman sitting quietly in the corner with a massive plaster rabbit head balanced on her surely straining neck. I’m sure that a lot of you are expecting to see Failure #7 here, but Father John Misty totally blew us away. After seeing him perform at Marathon and later at Bonnaroo, it was an absolute treat to see his touching songs performed in the intimate performance space. We finally made it back out to Glasslands to meet up with friends, who were watching the aforementioned Hospitality, and we caught the final two minutes of their set (Failure #7).
Defeated, completely unaware of what was happening or where to go (did you know that there wasn’t even an app for CMJ? Who doesn’t have an app? I guess No Country doesn’t have an app (Failure #8)), and trying to get a ride home, we hung with friends for the rest of the night. It was a ton of fun, but many-a-beers flowed on that evening, and we woke up with an insane hangover (Failure #9) in time to catch an airplane home without a single photo and not seeing a single Nashville band that was there (Failure #10).
Will we do CMJ again? Abso-freaking-lutely. If nothing else, we networked, ate great food, had great times with friends, spent a crazy fun weekend in New York, and caught a little bit of the madness that is CMJ. If at first you fail, you try, try, try again. See you there next year!