What Not to Miss at the 2011 CMJ Music Marathon


(Courtesy of CMJ)


(Courtesy of CMJ)

The CMJ Music Marathon, New York City’s largest music festival, will return for its 31st year, starting on Oct. 18, through Oct. 22. The festival began in 1980 and is well known as one of the best festivals in the nation for discovering new music and artists. This year’s festival is packed with several hotly anticipated shows along with a slew of great new artists waiting to be discovered. Visitors can buy tickets to individual shows or purchase a ShowPass, granting access to every show of the festival. This year’s lineup, featuring over 1,300 artists playing at venues across the city can seem quite overwhelming. To make things a bit more manageable, the Observer has picked out the must-see shows at this year’s festival.

As far as the well-known acts this year go, Neon Indian have created the biggest buzz. Alan Palomo, the 23-year-old creative force behind Neon Indian, has been garnering attention since the release of his first album in 2009, and is being hailed as one of the biggest acts in what has been dubbed the “chillwave” genre. His latest album, “Era Extraña”, was released this September to critical acclaim, and continues in the style catchy synth-pop that has brought him into the spotlight. Neon Indian will play Webster Hall on Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

The other hotly anticipated band that shouldn’t be missed this year is Portugal. The Man, a Portland-based band that refuse to neatly fit into any genre. Having just released their well-received sixth studio album, “In the Mountain in the Cloud”, Portgual. The Man continue to perfect their unique style of indie-rock. The band wll be playing at Terminal 5 on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 9:30 p.m.

If the $25 price tag at Terminal 5 is a bit too pricey, there is another opportunity to catch them playing a free show at the Ace Hotel on Oct. 19 at 2:30 p.m. Seattle-based radio station KEXP will be hosting and broadcasting a series of performances at this midtown hotel on Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 19- Oct. 21. Despit being free on a first come, first served basis, KEXP has managed to book some of the biggest names at the festival including Zola Jesus, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Dum Dum Girls, EMA and Atlas Sound.

Brooklyn rock group Black Taxi have been playing around the city since 2007 with little response from the music media or the public at large. However they are well known among fans for having an explosive on-stage energy that makes them one of the most exciting live acts around. This year, the group is looking to make a bigger splash by playing a total of three shows during the five-day festival. Not to be outdone, another new act, Wise Blood (a.k.a. Chris Laufman) will be playing four shows of his electronic-infused indie rock during the festival. If reputation is to be believed, both acts promise to be a great live experience.

Beyond the live performances, the CMJ Music Marathon will also be featuring film screenings for the 17th consecutive year. The film aspect of the festival will feature the world and US debut of dozens of independent feature and short length films. As part of this, the new film “Pearl Jam Twenty” will be premiering on the first night of the festival. Holders of the CMJ full badge will also have access to the many panels held by industry insiders about the business side of the music industry.

This year’s CMJ Festival is once again packed with an incredible abundance of shows, panels and screenings, of which these selections are merely a small fraction. To see the complete lineup and schedule, visit the official site. 

NEON INDIAN- “Polish Girl”

PORTUGAL. THE MAN- “Sleep Forever”