Idolator At CMJ, Day Five: Does Anyone Really Give A Crap At This Point?

Oct 21st, 2007 // 13 Comments

cmjsmall.jpg 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.


  1. not on the list

    cmj needs a major overhaul. everything this year from the panels to the official shows left a lot to be desired. i ran around for four days to catch as much mediocrity as possible.

  2. J_

    Heckling terrible bands will not actually make you look bad. It will actually make you a better music fan

    Because we need more people talking during the music? Are you auditioning for the role of “Hey, Asshole” posterboy?

    This is a horrible idea which presupposes everyone shares the same musical taste. Given the polarizing nature of, say, Dan Deacon (whom I love, too), would you prefer too see him booed off the floor by every ninny who doesn’t get The Countdown? Wouldn’t it have been great had, early in his career, his entire act been shouted out of existence? Why don’t we just keep a gong on the floor of every venue?

    Just because you’re not personally having a good time, you’re going to bravely make the show about yourself? You have options. You can weather the performance and earn the right to bitch about it; you can go back to the bar and commiserate with friends; you can leave and — especially during CMJ — catch a billion other things.

    But what’s on the bill is what’s on the bill. Unless the name on the ticket says “Jess Harvell,” you don’t have the option to ruin the show for fans of the music that’s scheduled to be played. That’s just infantile, and should you ever start barking shit out during my favorite song I’m going to fight fratboy behavior with fratboy behavior and heckle your face with my fist.

  3. Baberaham Lincoln

    Did anyone care in the first place?

  4. NoNewYork

    you guys shoulda seen tell my horse at don hills last night. really amazing, and def. not like anything else out there. closest comparison is the birthday party, but you can dance to it, yet not in a post 2002 way. one of the best shows i’ve seen in ages.

  5. MrStarhead

    Is Jehu a descendant of Drive Like Jehu? ‘Cause that would be awesome.

  6. mike a

    I wasn’t there, but from everything I’ve read, CMJ’s problem is that it’s an aging franchise. Like a fading strip in a destination city (think of Seattle’s Broadway or University Way), it’s still there, but is now coasting on its past and can only watch helplessly as those in the know go elsewhere. I guess that makes SXSW…Ballard?

  7. Jack S

    Wasn’t the last time the term “College Music” was relevant was-like-in 1990? When people began to realize that kids at college radio stations were discovering acts/music?

    It’s 2007. We have the Internet and now there are so many sub genres that it’s not worth the effort to have a “conference” anymore.

  8. Adam Bernard

    I went to one CMJ event this year, begrudgingly, because I already knew I liked one of the bands on the bill. My main issue with CMJ is how spread out it is, both time-wise and space-wise. That being said, Warped Tour always seems to be run really well, so why can’t CMJ take a cue from them, maybe with one day for the panels and another day where they just rent out a parking lot, set up a dozen stages and have everyone perform. A lot more people will see a lot more bands and there won’t be that filthy “dirty locker room / smelly white guy” stench that seems to permeate current CMJ venues.

  9. Dickdogfood

    @Statler_HoaS: I’ve never booed or heckled a performer while they were onstage in my life. (I have heckled audience members, and before she became famous/infamous, booed Cat Power as she left a stage.) But as long as it doesn’t shade off into outright harrassment (and that’s obviously a tough call much of the time), and is largely done in the gaps between music, I think it’s fine. Sometimes a virtue, even. Since a huge hunk of indie music isn’t remotely interested in making people dance — and with the schmuzzier end of noise/ambient, think or feel much of anything — what the fuck kinda role is left for an audience other than a hivemind beaming back passive “respectfulness” onto the performers? Is a rock concert supposed to function exactly like a cello recital, only smellier? Heckling levels the playing field a little. Yeah, concerts are actually in fact about the audience too!

    Also: once you start punching hecklers (or anybody), then you have become waaaaaay more of a concert-ruiner than just about any stupid heckler could be.

  10. dola

    If they’re still under 30 and have been playing shows and releasing albums for well over a decade, then it’s probably going to be an entertaining show chock full of great songs and that chemistry you were missing. Using that rule of thumb people as varied as Jay Reatard and Kevin Devine did not disappoint.

  11. NoNewYork

    umm… im pretty sure dan deacon wouldnt be much bothered by heckling.
    this is pop music kid, this isn’t fucking opera.

  12. PandaPornMcAwesome

    I could not possibly be more over CMJ. I’d rather see any of those bands in a normal setting at a normal show, rather than some long boring “showcase” brimming over with assholes wearing those stupid fucking badges.

  13. palndrom23

    lighten up, STATLER_HOAS. everyone knows that heckling bands is funny and makes for goodtimes.

    also, it would be nice if anything related to CMJ was fun, especially, say, attending the shows.

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