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
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
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
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,"
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
"Thank the good Lord [the hurricane] blew to the right,"
Ellerson said. "We got in touch with the clubs, but none of them
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
"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."