The ATO Records showcase announcement of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard doing a show from her side project Thunderbitch was perhaps the biggest surprise of CMJ week. Almost every major music reporter, photographer, blogger or industry type was there. The immediate area around the stage was basically all photographers as this was one of the first shows from Howard (as Thunderbitch). And it rocked.
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CMJ Music Marathon is an endurance test. You can collect as many bands as you want—on any given day you can catch way more than a dozen if you are willing to work for it. On the third (and on the fourth) nights, I wasn’t pushing myself. I wanted to see John Grant ‘s newly added set at Rough Trade since I couldn’t make his set at Le Poisson Rouge on the last day. And I wanted to catch up with Quilt who I hadn’t seen in a while. I also got to hang out at Baby’s where a team from Mute Records was on site giving out stickers and albums (I got myself ones from M83 and from The Knife).
It’s never easy to select where to go during CMJ Music Marathon, the nearly week long event that draws hundreds of bands to New York City for a chance to play in front of industry professionals, music tastemakers, bloggers and their friends. Hopefully anyone really. Given the number of venues to choose from, I decided to hedge my bets and go to the BalconyTV Showcase at Webster Hall, an event I attended last year, so that I could also check out bands downstairs in the Studio while bands were swapping out on the former stage. Below are the acts I caught, as well as pics from Christopher Paul Stelling’s set at Rockwood as I had wanted to end my night on a strong show.
On the drive down through the hills on the way to the Austin City Limits Festival, I was reflecting how satisfying it would be to see young guitar slinger Gary Clark, Jr. ride back into his hometown, triumphant in front of 75,000 or so, and take his rightful seat as the new king of the blues. To be honest, it’s been too long since a young, preternaturally talented African American blues guitar player reclaimed that title.
And it was both touching and thrilling.
// Notes from the Road
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