CMJ Week: A Roundup Of The Best Shows


By Steven Roberts

Way back in 20 aught 7 when I started interning at MTV News, CMJ Week was one of the things that got me noticed and helped me stick around. The annual music showcase sees dozens of artists descend – well, some just take the L from Brooklyn – on New York City to try and prove themselves. As an intern, I loved the chance to run around my hometown to cover music. I was doing that already, but this time it was free and I could tell girls I was working for MTV News.

Fast-forward four years, I'm old and jaded, and CMJ isn't that big of a deal. Well, that isn't entirely true. It still provides kids an opportunity to see plenty of up-and-coming acts and it gives those acts a chance to broaden their fanbase. And I wasn't mad at all of those invites in my inbox either.

My co-worker CJ and I decided to compile a list of some of our favorite shows this weekend, read on for more.


The Knitting Factory

CJ said the best band he saw (Fidlar) was at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory on Friday. Hailing from LA, their band name is an acronym for "F*** it dog, life's a risk." They play tight multi-layered garage songs (think Black Lips or Davila 666) with incendiary break-downs that take that sound to the next level. Killer.

The Fader Fort

Although CMJ Week kicked off Thursday, I didn't get out to my first show until Saturday at The Fader Fort by Fiat – that's alliteration, homes. The main act I wanted to see was Atlanta's Future. My family recently moved to A-T-L and whenever I go visit, the second generation Dungeon Family member’s music is playing on the radio. I've interviewed him twice, but I had yet to see him live. I may have to wait until I go back to Atlanta, because Future's set was pushed up and I missed the Astronaut Kid.

I did get to check out really good sets from Polica and Purity Ring – and I really wish they had a better website, so I could hear more of their stuff. Kendrick Lamar took to the Fader Fort stage next for a surprise performance. It was the first time most of the crowd packed in front of the stage. The Compton emcee’s set was brief, but thankfully I was on the list for his headlining show at Gramercy, and after catching some of DC’s Fat Trel, I headed there.

The Gramercy

While the bill was titled “Kendrick Lamar and Friends,” I didn’t get to catch many of his friends (Rich Hill, Troy Ave and The AIRPLANE BOYS) because I was down by the bar in VIP. However, I flocked upstairs with everyone else to catch a full set from Lamar. It was amazing to hear the usually tough New York crowd rap along to his every word from his three projects, The Kendrick Lamar EP, The OD and his Section.80 (which is my pick for hip-hop’s album of the year). Lamar separated himself from the rest of the emcees I would see that evening and looked to be every much the star that he’s been touted.

The Spin Party

While I was at Kendrick, CJ was over at Spin's secret CMJ show checking out the Rapture. He could not believe how well the staple of NYC's early 2000's post-punk revivalism had aged. Their new record sounded mature and refined but still paired nicely with their nearly decade-old hit "House of Jealous Lovers." They still sounded current, considering 2011 is the year of the saxophone after all.

Fool’s Gold 4th Anniversary Party

I think I was at Fool’s Gold’s first CMJ party four years ago, which featured The Cool Kids and Kid Sister, so it was cool to bring this full circle to cap off the night. After a late night diner stop, I headed to the TriBeca Grand Hotel to catch sets from hip-hop acts Mr. Motherf**kin’ eXquire, Danny Brown (dressed as a Tigger) and Noreaga. The room was smoked out and a bit of a cluster f**k, but I highly doubt any of them would’ve had it any other way.