The CMJ Cheat Sheet

icp.jpgLadies and gentleman, your keynote speakers

CMJ is a whole lot of things, but I'm not sure fun is one of them. I've only ever been to one of these feeding frenzies, but my lingering impressions from last year mostly revolve around making mad dashes from venue to venue and trying to make sure I didn't miss anything important, not actually watching any of the shows. And when you're actually standing in a room watching the band you rushed across Manhattan to see, about half your brain is consumed with figuring out how you're going to the next thing. There's a weird stress involved, and the best advice I can really offer is to pick a show or two you really want to see every night, go to that show, and stay there. If you try to hit five different clubs every night, you're inevitably going to want to punch a bouncer in the neck by Sunday morning; this is prime Asshole Season for those guys. And CMJ has for some reason waited until Halloween to kick this thing off this year, which means it's going to be really fucking cold outside by the end of the week, and you're probably not going to want to be running around outside too much. As a special added bonus, the L train isn't going to be running after midnight this week, so good luck trying to get back and forth between Williamsburg and downtown Manhattan.

But if you're one of the chump-ass chumps who paid $495 for a CMJ badge, you're almost certainly not going to want to sit at one $15 show all night, and you're not going to listen to me. If you can afford one of those things though, you can afford to take a couple of cabs. So take cabs.

Badges aren't going to get you into all the shows you want to see, though, and it's worth noting that some of this year's best CMJ shows aren't actually affiliated with CMJ at all. One of the best shows of the entire festival looks to be Todd P's Friday night Panache showcase at the 339 Scholes St. Warehouse in East Williamsburg: the Slits, the Apes, Erase Errata, two stages, twelve bucks. And a lot of venues are going to be hosting free all-day open-to-the-public shows all week, and those are probably your best bets for seeing some of this year's standouts. Brooklyn Vegan is putting on three daytime shows at various different clubs in the city, and he's got himself a few great bands: spazzed-out Brazilian art-punks CSS on Wednesday, orthodox-indie jitter-kings Oxford Collapse on Friday, a bunch of bands I've never actually heard on Saturday. Awesomely swoony new-wavers Van She are going to be playing the Union Square Puma Store on Friday, though I wish to God this flier would tell us what time. Williamsburg record store Sound Fix is going to be hosting some pretty good all-day in-store lineups, including swirly-guitar types Dirty on Purpose on Wednesday and Beach House on Thursday. The Fader is going to have some sort of lounge thing, but you have to do some RSVP thing that I can never figure out. And the motherfucking Decemberists, maybe the biggest band to play this whole mess, are playing at the Soho Apple Store on Friday afternoon. Pick your battles.

As for the actual CMJ festival shows, every night has a no-brainer or two, and here are mine: newly fluorescent disco-wave shriekers the Rapture at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, dystopian Swedish synth-monsters the Knife at Webster Hall on Wednesday, languidly grizzled indie-types the Walkmen at NYU's Skirball Center on Thursday, epic psyche-roar trio Secret Machines at Warsaw on Friday, and coke-rap messiahs Clipse at the Knitting Factory on Saturday. Also, if you show up to Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall on Saturday, you'll get to hear the Insane Clown Posse dudes talk about performance art and self-expression, which sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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