The annual 1997 CMJ Music Marathon began in 1983 to assemble artists, media and industry types in an effort to promote new music. As founder Robert H. Haber puts it, the original goal was "to put a face to the music we were writing about in CMJ (College Music Journal, a weekly trade publication for college radio stations.)" The faces weren't always well-known. The Music Marathon helped fuel the careers of such big-names acts as NIN, R.E.M., Tool, The Fugees, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Rage Against the Machine by allowing them to play in front of large numbers of people long before they had become household names. This week, over 900 bands and 8,000 registrants have converged upon the streets of New York for four nights of non-stop music, panels, schmoozing and a possible peek at the next big thing. Addicted To Noise correspondent Sam Cannon is there to gather some of the details. Here is his second report:
NEW YORK -- Spotting music celebrities in New York City, especially on a night when CMJ and the MTV Music Video Awards coincide, is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Still, sometimes, you've just got to be in the right place at the right time.
While fans, news reporters, and, dare I say the word, paparazzi swarmed around Radio City Music Hall uptown Thursday night, down at SoHo's Knitting Factory music nerds and industry hipsters alike buzzed over the presence of Mr. Power Pop himself, Bob Mould.
The legendary solo artist and ex-Husker Du and ex-Sugar frontman entered as
fellow Minnesotans Polara finished their set. At first, band members appeared
to be smiling at singer/guitarist Ed Ackerson's child-like enthusiasm over his
array of effects pedals. But maybe they, along with everyone else, were
pleased to see Mould bring the room to life. After all, Polara's hazy rock
can induce daydream-like states with just a few chords. As Ackerson puts it
in "Sort It Out": "I don't want to wake until it's dark."
As Chicago's Verbow set up their equipment on stage, Mould, who produced
their debut album, Chronicles, turned all conversation back to his
proteges. "If you liked that one (referring to one of his records that an
admirer was gushing about)," he said calmly, "I think you'll like Verbow. "
Verbow made good on Mould's recommendation. Gritty vocals and emotionally
delicate lyrics, delivered by singer/guitarist Jason Narducys, poised
themselves against rich and potentially explosive pop. The distorted and
nimble bow work of cellist Allison Chesley, who wore a Meat Puppets T-shirt,
served as the variable that made Verbow unique and memorable.
As raw, romantic poets, you can understand what Mould saw in Verbow that made him want to lend his hand in the studio. As accomplished performers, it's clear why he came to see them live.
Contrary to what you'd expect, the room got more crowded toward the twilight
hours. Due to a late start, Portland, Ore.'s psychedelic sass squad The Dandy
Warhols didn't play until after 2 a.m. Their performance kept up the pace and
then some, alternating older, extended shoegazer jams (i.e., "Minnesota,"
with its swooning lyrics and sonic guitar washes) and incredibly bouncy,
syncopated boppers (i.e., the wry monotony of "I Love You").
Everyone in the band, including drummer/back-up singer Eric Hedford, contributed in their own way to the charismatic presence that kept the audience rapt for well over an hour. Even the Warhols themselves were impressed.
Singer Courtney Taylor quipped, "We told Capitol (who released their latest album, ...Come Down) that we'd never put on a good show at an industry event."
Never say never. [Sat., Sept. 6, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]