who we saw at cmj 2014
garage rockers, girl groups, and badasses
photos by jackie yaeger and liz riccardi
My favorite thing about going to crazy parties with my BFFs is the morning after. It's a time when we all recount the fuzzy memories of what happened the night before, trying to remember who hooked up with whom, what songs the DJs played, and totally important turning points in the night (like, the minute we ran out of cups). CMJ Music Marathon is a lot like that; you browse the schedule for bands you've heard are sick, make yourself a calendar, and try to go see them all over six-days, at 30 different venues across NYC—and when it's all over, the band's whose sets you can actually remember are probably the ones you thought ruled the fest.
After almost a week of seeing live set after live set, it can be hard to tell who was good and who was bad. Coined "Jade Brain" by my friend Emmett Farley, sorting out who you remember and who you don't can really mean which bands are going to be breakouts for you over the next 12 months.
This year, I got to check out tons of awesome bands. After trudging through my Jade Brain (and beer brain) and looking back on the week of performances, the top three sets for me were:
3. Aussie surf rock dudes Dune Rats
2. Arizona desert pop girl Zella Day
1. UK girl group PINS
Get my whole recap by checking out the gallery above and stream my corresponding CMJ playlist below!
The Show: Sunflower Bean @ Mister H
Listen If You Like: Temples, The Wytches, Mystic Braves
Quick Review: NYLON Faves Sunflower Bean from NYC killed it at our CMJ showcase, filling the room with their psych rock jams (Blair has resorted to calling them Sunflower Babies because she loves them so much--and I might just do the same).
The Show: Creepoid @ Grand Victory
Listen If You Like: Eagulls, Field Mouse, No Joy
Quick Review: This shoegaze four-piece may or may not be called Creepoid based on the way the frontwoman basically makes love to her guitar and mic--but it's awesome how into it she gets. The drummer killed it, especially during the finale. I definitely got a Radiohead vibe from their live set, but like, a Philly-basement-party Radiohead.
Found at the Show: 3 pairs of black Chucks and an Institute tee
Close-up of Creepoid's drumhead art (re: their 2012 Horse Heaven album cover)
The Show: Small Black @ Brooklyn Bowl
Listen If You Like: Blackbird Blackbird, Washed Out, Neon Indian
Quick Review: Even though Small Black isn't really a new band, I've been trying to catch their live set for a while. I really wanted to see them open for STRFKR last year but missed it. When I saw them at BK Bowl, the Brooklyn-based band instantly put me in a good mood. See the next slide for my reaction to their live version of one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time...
Me during "No Stranger" at Small Black's live set. lol.
The Show: Potty Mouth @ Baby's All Right
Listen If You Like: The Julie Ruin, Diarrhea Planet, White Lung
Quick Review: The frontwoman of this Massachusetts band is a total babe. It's really cute that one of their records is called Bratmobile. Aside from Abbys chill yet Fiona Apple-inspired stage presence (she's got that alt singer-songwriter thing happening--maybe it's the hair), I wasn't that impressed with the band's live set. However, I can't say I'll stop listening to Bratmobile just because of that.
Gotta go to shows via the L train, but first...pizza pizza pizza.
The Show: Cosmonaut @ Muchmore's
Listen If You Like: Howler, The Strokes, The Kooks
Quick Review: Greenpoint, BK dudes Cosmonaut put on a super fun show. They have fun themselves which always makes a live set better. They've definitely got a little retro feel, rock out really hard, and write lyrics from the heart.
The Show: Bully @ Baby's All Right
Listen If You Like: No Doubt, Haim, Aquadolls
Quick Review: These Nashville indie rockers are fresh off their tour with NYLON fave dudes Drowners, but Bully killed their solo set at the Brooklyn Vegan showcase. I honestly did not want them to stop playing. Alicia Bognanno slays on both guitar and vocals (and on the Adidas T-shirt game), plus has three rad musicians backing her, making for the ultimate complement.
Quick drink at The Bedford before the next show. "The Gin Ricardo": Gin, muddled basil, fresh lime, splash of soda, and a salty spiced rim
The Show: Pins @ Cameo Gallery
Listen If You Like: Drowners, Joanna Gruesome, Misfits
Quick Review: Pins are like gothic Spice Girls who know how to play their instruments, aren't afraid for their mascara to run all over their face, and have seriously good taste in shoes. The Manchester four-piece brings a dark, '60s feel, along with '90s chokers and major badass girl power.
Waffles at Sweet Chick!
The Show: Purling Hiss @ Baby's All Right
Listen If You Like: Warm Soda, The Men, Thee Oh Sees
Quick Review: Purling Hiss put out one of my favorite records this year, Weirdon. I had the chance to interview them about their favorite Philly spots and who their dream musician is to tour with. Seeing them live is always a fun show, especially if you want to get a little wild.
The Show: Dune Rats @ Glasslands
Listen If You Like: Bleeding Knees Club, FIDLAR, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Quick Review: Dune Rats make sweaty Australian noise rock that's super grungy. They eat their own mics and lick their own guitar's pickups. They talk a lot between songs and you can hardly understand them, which is kind of cute. #hairsomuchhair Found at the Show: 6 backwards hats, 2 double fisters, 1 rose tattoo
The Show: Zella Day @ Brooklyn Night Bazaar
Listen If You Like: Lowell, Tei Shi, Chelsea Lankes
Quick Review: Zella Day is a popstar with some serious edge. Maybe it's because of the fact that she grew up in Arizona, writing songs barefoot in the woods. You can find out what I really think of Zella by reading my interview with the desert pop princess here.
The Show: Beach Fossils @ Brooklyn Bowl
Listen If You Like: Wild Nothing, The Drums, Craft Spells
Quick Review: Also not a new band at all and you can probably catch Beach Fossils any time in Brooklyn, but the important thing is that you catch them.
The Show: Mothxr @ Mister H
Listen If You Like: Blood Orange, Wet, and Rhye
Quick Review: It's sometimes hard to disassociate Penn Badgley from his Gossip Girl character. especially when he looks has swoon-worthy as he does while he's performing with his band Mothxr. The truth is, the Brooklyn-based indie four-piece is surprisingly good, and we're totally addicted.