Breakbeat Era, Gay Dad Exposed At CMJ Music Marathon

This year's edition of music-business event draws 9,000 attendees, introduces new bands.

NEW YORK — The CMJ Music Marathon, a four-day seminar,

festival and mixer for around 9,000 musicians, radio programmers,

label employees, computer geeks and college kids, ended Saturday with

a speech from music-business veteran Ice-T.

The rapper, who served as one of the festival's keynote speakers,

spoke in the Hilton's Grand East Ballroom. He rambled for a half hour

about "the truth," the millennium, record deals gained and lost, how

the Internet is changing music and how country music and rap are the

same thing.

He closed with a general rule of thumb for those in the music

business: "Tell them what I tell them, ... eat a bowl of d---s." But

it all seemed to make sense to the crowd of several hundred CMJ

attendees, who gave Ice-T (born Tracy Morrow) a standing ovation.

The convention maintained a party atmosphere throughout. But new music

— from rising outfits such as Gay Dad and the

Breakbeat Era — was its centerpiece, said Alex Ellerson, chief

operating officer of CMJ, the music publication that sponsors and

organizes the event.

"We want to mix friendly faces with up-and-coming bands,"

Ellerson explained. "Artists like the Foo Fighters and Tricky, they

don't need the exposure. The other artists, they might need it."

Ellerson said the Marathon is primarily about giving people the

chance "to discover and promote new talent." He cited punk-rockers

Green Day, who played CMJ in 1992, as a past success story. Nine Inch

Nails and Jane's Addiction are among the other artists who have

performed at CMJ shows in the festival's 19-year history, according

to another organizer.

In addition to the Foo Fighters and Tricky, other established artists

played CMJ shows at Manhattan clubs this year. They included Verbena,

Feeder, the Chemical Brothers and Rahzel, the human beat-box for

Philadelphia hip-hop group the Roots. But a number of participating

bands were getting their first major exposure to music-business movers

and shakers.

Gay Dad, a popular rock band in the UK, made their American debut

Friday at the Bowery Ballroom (RealAudio excerpt of their song "To Earth With Love").

Bettie Serveert, another critically well-regarded rock band, played that show as well (RealAudio excerpt of their song "Sugar The Pill").

Across town at the Westbeth Theater Center, the Breakbeat Era — a

collaboration between British drum & bass DJs Roni Size and DJ Die and

singer Leonie Laws — brought their mix of scatter-shot drum &

bass music, live instrumentation and chanteuse vocals to U.S. soil.

Size and Die stepped aside and let Laws play the star. The singer

and her backing band led the audience through such desperate-sounding

songs as "Past Life," "Sex Change," "Our Disease" and "Control Freak."

During the latter, Laws, dressed in a snug red top and pink

sweatpants, danced wildly. She was flirtatious as she spoke to the

crowd in her British cockney accent.

"I gave my all for you on that one," she said after her performance

of "Past Life."

Size and Die also played individual sets. Size was especially

masterful, controlling his console with the stoic presence of a guru.

His music sounds like a haunted-house soundtrack punctuated by a

Gatling gun, and the crowd danced and scurried with abandon (RealAudio excerpt of his song "Railing").

Rock bands Chevelle, Muse and Black Box Recorder; African bandleader

Femi Kuti; the Handsome Boy Modeling School (a collaboration between

producers Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Prince Paul); and rapper

Afu-Ra were other acts looking for new listeners during the weeklong

event.

Chevelle drummer Sam Loeffler, 24, said his band — a trio of

brothers from the Chicago suburbs — felt no real pressure

playing sets at CBGB's on Thursday and at Irving Plaza on Saturday.

He did say that the prospect of rising through the music industry

— Chevelle will open for Atlanta band Sevendust on a U.S. concert

tour starting in October — is somewhat daunting.

"Unless you actually do it ... [you] don't know how big it is,"

Loeffler said.

The remnants of Hurricane Floyd hit the city Wednesday and Thursday,

prompting Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to order the city's workers to go

home early. Festival organizers were worried about the possible

effect of the storm, but the music never stopped. The clubs stayed

opened and the bands continued to rock, as the heavy rains eventually

subsided.

"Thank the good Lord [the hurricane] blew to the right,"

Ellerson said. "We got in touch with the clubs, but none of them

closed."

Lawrence Lui, director of noncommercial promotions for V2 Records,

said the festival is a blessing for bands like the Breakbeat Era or

two of the acts on his label that played the shindig —

rockers Those Bastard Souls and French DJ Alex Gopher.

"CMJ is kind of good for galvanizing interest for some of the bands

that aren't going to be on commercial radio right away," Lui said.

"A lot of them have upcoming records. We're trying to feed interest in

these baby bands."

Tom O'Gara, the special-events director for WECB-FM, a radio station

at Emerson College in Boston, said he learned a great deal from

attending the festival, swapping ideas on promotion and marketing with

other college radio station employees.

But he said he was disappointed by the panel discussions, which were

held throughout the four-day event on subjects ranging from the

management of indie labels to running low-powered radio stations.

"The panels were good, but there was more of an emphasis on label

members and performers," O'Gara said. "My colleagues and I were a

little left out on those."

O'Gara said he was able to see only one show during the festival —

the Chemical Brothers' performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom on the

rain-drenched Thursday night. O'Gara called the show a pleasant

surprise.

"I was shocked," he said "There seemed to have been stacks of tickets

left when I looked on the counter, which ended up being great for us."