Forget temporary deafness brought on by feedback and/or too much bass, this is what’s left ringing in our ears after a week’s worth of shows: the nagging question of just who’s left that really cares about CMJ. Even with the blanket coverage by the Times, Pitchfork, and music blogs great and small, press and promoters alike found it harder than ever to drum up interest this year. But can anything be done about it?
DEPARTURE: 12:17 p.m.
RETURN HOME: 3:03 a.m.
WEATHER REPORT: Kinda chilly and here we left our jackets home like big sillies.
BANDS SEEN: Four: Stars Like Fleas, Bring Back The Guns, Torche, Jesu. CMJ total: 31.
BANDS MISSED BECAUSE THEIR VAN BROKE DOWN: Philly’s amazing Clockcleaner. Booo.
BEST SWAG: Nada. Why should the last day be any different than the first, eh? Maybe Goldberg got that extra hat.
BEST AMENITIES: Free pie! Even if we didn’t eat any.
DORKIEST IRONIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You’ve neve heard of them? God, they were a band to watch on Stereogum!”
BEST FAKE RAVE: Maura’s reports of glowsticks and clown wigs from the Justice show, which almost made us wish we had gone raving rather than shoegazing with Jesu. As did…
BEST “COVER”: Justice putting the new French touch on Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets,” which we’re sure was enjoyably ghastly even before they started dropping more Schoolhouse Rock-style “you can dance!” samples over it.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CMJ ATTENDEES: Heckling terrible bands will not actually make you look bad. It will actually make you a better music fan, as you will be more engaged than 98% of the sleepwalkers around you who are too bored/disaffected to care that some shitacular indie folk band or photocopy dance rock act is wasting minutes of their lives.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE CMJ STAFF: Obviously you can’t euthanize an “important” “institution” like CMJ, but it needs a transfusion stat, whether it’s bands that might actually tempt laypeople to leave the house, a slightly less stultifying air, or a few curveballs. With many of the best/most interesting bands playing daytime/late night parties not officially connected to CMJ and the actual CMJ gig guide reading like one big yawn, people were less enthused than ever as they trudged through five days of one middling indie combo after another. Especially those trapped in the blog echo chamber, where six or seven “influential” sites are pimping the same two or three negligible, unformed acts whose deficiencies–lackluster songs, poor onstage chemistry, all the usual stuff that comes from being hyped too soon, rather than a band finding its groove over time on the road–are apparent the minute they hit the stage for their first major showcase for the NYC biz mafia.
Even if CMJ is really 75% “networking” for most people (including getting drunk at house parties and eating on someone else’s dime); even if people attached to the music industry have entitlement issues that would shame an heiress (who else expects to be constantly “wowed” more for contributing less?); and even if the formatting of CMJ has long been contrived, this kind of mass ennui over up and coming bands doesn’t bode well for an already ailing enterprise (i.e. the music industry), biz folks and press alike treating the process of auditioning new bands as a business obligation spiked with occasional cocktails. The “suffocatingly cool” vibe talked up by some of the more delusional hypemongers out there was definitely not in effect, though a certain exhaustion brought on by diminished expecations was: Is it particularly surprising that most people merely shrugged when they learned their new blog rock emperors had no cardigans? If CMJ is the first warning shot that people are becoming weary/wary of the empty praise heaped indiscriminately on one mediocre band after another, in an ever-shortening press cycle, then maybe this lackluster year was worth it.
STILL, HOW MANY GREAT BANDS DID WE SEE?: Four. Yeah, out of 31, but still more than we expected.
WILL WE BE BACK NEXT YEAR?: ‘Course. Provided it still exists.