CMJ 2011: A Road Trip w/ Manic Monkee

Hi, Manic Monkee (aka Allie Shaw) hollering at you. My first entry in the Road Trippin series I’ll be bringing to High Voltage takes us to New York City for CMJ 2011. Picture SXSW for the East Coast but instead of it all be located in one generalized area it’s in all the boroughs. So many taxi’s and subways are involved and instead of all the BBQs and Lonestar beer, it’s all about finger foods and wine at these parties. But if you are coming for the music, it’s well worth the miles you will travel. CMJ is a music festival & conference; I won’t bore you with the details of the conference, I get it, you’re here for the music. However, yours truly did speak on a panel this year about touring for performers in an economic climate. It was packed with line waiting outside to get in, just saying.

Lets get on with the good stuff.

The 31st annual CMJ festival started off with the Conflict Of Interest party on Monday night, The Syndicate’s annual party at Rebel NYC. Bands like Chiddy Bang, Walk The Moon and the Young Evils graced the overly packed venue. It was refreshing to see NYC get out and support the fest. Now, I’m not gonna do the usual day-by-day blah blah blah, I’ve decided to pick out the stuff I liked. Although, to be honest, a lot of the music started sounding the same. So much watery electronic music and those echoey vocals that seem to follow me in every venue. But, there were a few apples ripe for the picking…

Let me just say that my guilty pleasure this year is a band called Wallpaper out of LA. They played at 3am at Tammany Hall and revived this tired Monkee with their contagious music. A Hip Hop/Dance band whose music is just as addicting as their live performance with diddies about being too drunk to drive and having the best song ever, you’ll find yourself pushing repeat.

Over at the Australian BBQ, I came across a lovely singer named Grace Woodruffe, who had a beautiful blend of deep rootsy sounds that transitioned well into the crowd. Somehow I promised myself I was not gonna go to Brooklyn. The whole we are a band from Brooklyn thing is so overplayed… Yea, I get it, Brooklyn’s “cool” like it’s the new ‘we are a band from Seattle’, but yet, I still ended up there atop a roof to watch an amazing band called Vanaprasta I was freezing my ta-ta’s off, but when they started playing it occurred to me that I may be listening to the new Kings of Leon on the block. They have an amazing psychedelic energy that made me think if Radiohead and Kings Of Leon had a child the result would be Vanaprasta.

Perez Hilton, honestly to me, has no taste in music and has no business even having music centric parties. He throws one at CMJ and one at SXSW every year and usually it’s dance crap, sorry. This time the line-up appeared more soul-oriented so I thought, alright, soul, sweet. His party, let me think, bombed. He had Boyz II Men and Mary J Blige, two amazing acts in themselves but singing their music to tracks! It felt like a lip synch contest more then an actual performance. It was a waste of two great talents. Pony up Perez and brings the bands in to back up the singers, cheapo.

So, I could talk about The Dum Dum Girls, Neon Indian, Portugal The Man (whom I do love), The Lonely Forest, Ziggy Marley, En Vogue, The Delta Spirit and so many more who played there, but you can read about them on every blog. I am a champion for the underdog, the one’s that are still undiscovered but that I believe won’t be for long. Here is what’s next: Shinobi Ninja, Free Energy, A House For Lions, The Barr Brothers, Chelsea Wolfe, Boy & Bear, People Get Ready, The Parlotones, Zola Jesus, and The Kin (at least from my perspective).

Honestly, I found a great band waiting around in the Subway called Heth and Jed – they called to me as I was waiting for my train – a blend of fusions think Santana meets Gypsy Kings.

So many parties, so much music, it’s a blur. A definitive haze for the indie crowd surfing to discover new music. I’m not gonna say I discovered anything that blew my socks off or anything that left a major lasting impression as I ran from venue to venue. Subway and taxi hopping takes a toll… Although unlike it’s big brother counterpart, it’s easier to see music at this festival as the lines at SXSW are outrageous and CMJ has still hung on mostly to what it was founded on, independent music. You can’t really call yourself an indie fest when you have bands like Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Robert Plant and Muse playing, ahem SXSW.

Go check the bands at discover for yourself. Manic Monkee gone bananas, I’m out.