In life, the best things are usually the ones you don't know about, stumble upon and end up enjoying thoroughly. It's hard to plan. The best things just fall into place. As is the case with music festivals (and CMJ is no exception to this rule) it may be the reason for the phrase. Like SXSW, CMJ is full of unofficial parties, secret shows, and all sorts of RSVP lists that open the doors to epic parties, or parties that could be epic but no one knew about them, and hence, no one showed up. Luckily, we're going to clear the air for you, and let you in on a few secrets, some choice bands to see, and a few reasons why obtaining an official CMJ badge doesn't really matter.
Day 1- 10/20
The Pop Tarts Suck Toasted kick off party at Cake Shop tomorrow is a great way to begin the fest. Not only is the blog bringing in Little Girls and Holiday Shores, but also Holiday Shores' Floridian neighbors Surfer Blood, who've been making serious waves, no pun intended, since their trip to NYC almost two months ago. Small Black, Grooms, Sisters, Motel Motel, Dinosaur Feathers, Will Stratton and Seth Kallen round out the Free seven hour show.
Tuesday night there are a lot of options. Between the Underwater Peoples/Olde English Spelling Bee freak fest at Monkeytown and the Best Coast show at Cake Shop, it's a real tough choice to make, especially since its the first night of the Festival. But if your looking for a way to get into exclusive shows for free, well, there's an app for that too. It's called the iPhone app for Going.com and it will get you into the Titus Andronicus, Beach Fossils, Woods, Here We Go Magic show at Webster Hall for free. Sorry BlackBerry users.
Day 2- 10/21
One of the biggest buzz bands in town this week is Best Coast, who've been tearing up the Interweb and tape hiss circles since "Sun Was High (So Was I)" hit the Web early this Summer. Throw in hypnagogic allstar Ducktails, NJ riff raff Fluffy Lumbers and the Africa high life riddims of, uh, HIGHLIFE (bka Sleepy Doug Shaw's groove project, which may or may not feature members of Gang Gang Dance, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti and White Magic) and this is a show not to be missed. Oh yeah, didnt even mention that Alex Bleeker and the Freaks and Coasting would also be making appearances, at the Group Tightener/Todd P event at Monster Island Basement. Not gonna lie, Wednesdays at the Basement have been the jump off recently.
Day 3- 10/22
Thursday is tough. You're starting to fade from 48 hours of excess but you must keep trudging through the trenches in order to receive either inevitable enlightenment or utter disillusionment. At this point, they are one in the same. You could rage the free DFA party at Brooklyn Bowl, with Murphy & Mahoney spinning as Special Disco Version, always choice. But I'd skip the party, especially if coming from out of town, to see The Beets, Beach Fossils, the Smith Westerns and more at Don Pedro's. Cover is only $5 and this is a damn good lineup, and taste of the North Brooklyn scene. Beach Fossils haven't really played outside the City much, and they are a must see, so do yourself a favor and head to Don Pedro's. Friends at home will be envious in months when you recount the night.
Another go-to Thursday show in Brooklyn is at the infamous Market Hotel. By now, its become a staple for bands rolling through town to hit the spot above Mr. Kiwi's and below the JMZ, and this doesn't change during CMJ as WNYU is throwing a serious rager with Gary War, Eric Copeland of Black Dice, Amen Dunes, Expo '77, and Fluffy Lumbers, who are on so many good bills this week it'd be hard to miss them.
Day 4- 10/23
Back to the LES, Friday afternoon at Cake Shop might just be the place to be. The Chouette Promotions party Friday afternoon is stacked with up-and-comers who should already be household names, depending on who you talk to you. Forrest Fire, whose Survival was named #1 album of 2008 by La Blogotheque, headline the afternoon party, which also features soundstress Julianna Barwick, the Sian Alice Group, HIGHLIFE and Theo Angel. A good way to kill Thursday nights hangover while pre-gaming for Friday nights festivities.
As is usually the case with CMJ, Friday night means running around. Everyone is pulling out the stops and the lineups are stacked to the brim with blogworthy, PR pumped bands from all over. However, if your looking to chill in one spot, and devour a cohesive lineup from one of the best labels going, your best bet is to pop over to Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg for the Paw Tracks showcase. It looks a lot like last years lineup, sans Beach House, but a lot has changed since then, with Dent May touring the world and Tickley Feather on the brink of a new release. Throw in Mrs. Avey Tare, aka Kria Brekkan, the freak show that is Exceptor and Drawlings and you've got one of the best label showcases of the festival.
Day 5- 10/24
Got really drunk at the Paw Tracks show and fell asleep in the bathroom? All good, as the fellas from Underwater Peoples will be taking over Cameo Gallery starting at 12 noon on Saturday. It's a brunch show for all the hungover masses still trying to figure out exactly what happened. Fortunately for us, the collective will have bands playing in the front of Lovin' Cup and in the back room. It's a gathering of chillers, complete with the seven man Pill Wonder arkestra, Family Portrait, Frat Dad, Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, and yes, Fluffy Lumbers, who, like I said earlier, are on a lot of choice bills this week.
By Saturday night your bones probably ache. That's cool. You should feel like shit. And the only thing that will cure your ailing limbs is a long ride on the L train to the deepest depths of Brooklyn, to what is easily one of the coolest places in New York. If you think I'm talking about the Silent Barn, well, you're right. Tuck a few tall boys into your coat and check out the dope lineup Pop Jew has curated for the closing nights festivities. By the end of the night, which features the likes of A Classic Education, a band from Italy which His Clancyness plays in, you'll be searching the floor for a valium and a few bucks for a cab ride home. And that's fine. That's how it should end: aching, ears bleeding.