By Rya Backer
Growing up in Manhattan, the annual CMJ Festival was always a staple, providing a lot of fun gigs in between Yom Kippur and Halloween. This year's CMJ has kind of been a bummer — or maybe everyone who used to be really psyched about CMJ is getting old and boring. But there are still good acts to be seen!
One of which is another born-and-bred Manhattanite, Samuel. Samuel played on Wednesday night (October 21) at the party hosted by Spin magazine (along with the Temper Trap and the Clipse — pretty classic eclectic CMJ booking). According to his MySpace page, Samuel has a musical pedigree, and his live show makes it really evident that entertaining is in his genes. Backed up by two DJs and a drummer (two of whom make up his production partners, the Knocks), Samuel sang through a high-energy (I go tired just watching him dance from one side of the stage to the other) set full of sunny, soulful and sad songs that were all ultimately pure pop.
Song standouts included the Motown-y "Coincidence" (it's a song about a girl, as are most of his tunes), the Postal Service-y "Say Goodbye" and the dance-friendly "Neverland." The crowd responded to the latter the best, shouting along with the chorus: "Until I find my way back to Neverlaaaaaand."
Like a lot of this year's CMJ artists, Samuel is already signed to a major label (Columbia) and has created a grassroots following in NYC, but with a tour scheduled for next year and an album scheduled for release next spring (executive produced and mixed by Greg Wells, who has also worked with Katy Perry and Mika), Samuel may already be on his way to Neverland.
Photo by Ian Witlen