Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CMJ 2009 - Day One

Happy Hollows

New York's CMJ Music Marathon has been an institution for nearly 30 years, originally conceived to help introduce new artists to both the industry and the college radio world. At its height, it was a prestigious event that featured top indie acts like PJ Harvey, Mars Volta, and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. But then a few years back, the industry's focus really began shifting to Austin's SxSW megafest, forcing CMJ to go back to its roots of presenting raw talent rather than showpiece big names.

And that's not neccessarily a bad thing. Sure, it might be fun to have bragging rights to some exclusive over-the-top event (A Night of Nothing featuring NIN at Irving Plaza, anyone?), but the lack of big names has really forced CMJ attendees to sift through and actually discover new music. My first finds? White Denim and the Happy Hollows.

I'd heard lots of good buzz about White Denim before I found out they were on the bill for The Syndicate's annual Conflict of Interest party. And while I expected them to be some indie rock flavor of the month, I was instead blown away by their Led Zeppelin-influenced white man's blues which was levereged by an obvious love of indie punk, a la Jay Reatard. Simply amazing.

Then last night, after already being elated from meeting Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and Warren DiMartini at a filming of Vh1 Classic's That Metal Show (more on that later), I went to Lit to catch the Happy Hollows. The CA-based trio, led by coffeehouse crush Sarah Negahdari, put on a frenetic performance of poppy indie rock—dare I say, power pop—and brought a smile to the face of every emaciated hipster in the house. Negahdari's demeanor, not to mention her near-fall into the door adjacent to Lit's stage was adorably endearing, and for some reason, reminded me of the late Gilda Radner. And, of course, their name seems to be a Cursive reference, so I'm sold.

Below are videos from both bands, and I've started a Flickr set of my CMJ exploits. Look for more posts as the festival continues!

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