My second day in New York started off kind of slow, but grew throughout the day. Things didn't really get moving or shaking till about 7 p.m., when I went to a press mixer hosted by Big Picture Media, the publicist for CMJ. I didn't really know what to expect besides a bunch of press people standing around giving each other their cards and discussing their careers. My thoughts were pretty off. I felt like I walked into an afterparty at Fashion Week or something. There was a line to get in, a full-on guest list and a photographer standing at the door. When I walked through the crowds, I honesty didn't know where to go but to the bar, which is where I met my first networking contact -- Keith, a music blogger. Keith than introduced me to Alex, who works for AOL, and our crew was complete. We then mingled in the crowd, saw tons of interviews going on with tiny camera crews, and just people straight-up partying. There didn't seem to be much networking or card exchanging going on at all. Not too many of the people seemed approachable, which I found kind of odd, to be honest. Needless to say, the networker in me was highly disappointed.
Keith, Alex and I were planning on attending a showcase at Webster Hall in the Village. Surfer Blood and The Drums were headlining. This show conflicted with the largest show of CMJ -- Phoenix, Wavves and Dirty Projectors at Madison Square Garden. I really wanted to go to both, which was impossible, so I choose to go to The Drums show. I had heard a few of their songs, and it seemed much easier to get into. Boy oh boy was I mistaken by that fact. The crew and I thought since we had press passes we were granted access to all things CMJ-related. This was false. Apparently, you needed an extra ticket on top of your pass, and your pass literally meant nothing. So the three of us get through security thinking we are okay, head up the stairs all smiley and excited that we made it through against the odds, and bam! Denied. We needed a new plan.
Webster Hall has three floors, all consisting of different venues. Since we were already there, we decided to just check out one of the other showcases going on. Alex had known that all the floors were connected to one another through staircases and suggested that we just try to get in any way possible. We started at the basement and got to the second floor, thinking it was the right venue ... sadly, we were wrong again. We then tried to concoct a plan to get upstairs from the second floor, but all the exits and staircases were heavily guarded by large security men. We immediately pulled the move of just trying to walk past them. As you can guess: denied! Then went to a different staircase, tried the same thing ... yet again, denied! I even pleaded with security, expressing that this was my job, and my boss told me this pass would get me in, that my job depended on writing this piece. You guessed it correctly. Again: Denied. Nobody cared, or would even budge about this topic. Luckily, Alex somehow snuck his way past the guard, but left Keith and I to figure our own sneaky way in. I felt defeated. There was no way we were gonna make it. We had exhausted all possibilities.
Until, of course, we found the secret staircase. Ahh, the secret staircase hidden behind two velvet ropes, behind another door, near a dingy area way in the back of the second floor. It looked like only staff or band members could even go into this area. Nobody was around so we pulled on the door, it opened and just walked up the stairs. There were three men standing around, one on the phone and the other two were talking. I was convinced we were doomed. To my surprise they didn't even give us a second look, and just like that we were in! We made it into one of the hardest ticket in town, and all by our cunning ways. We celebrated our victory with many high fives and then $8 Stellas.
I only got to catch the last song of the first band, and it was nothing to write home about. Then the second band, The Dewars, took the stage. There were seven members, all looking very Mad Max-esque with black trenchcoats and messy hair. They spoke as if they were from the 1920s and in an odd British type of accent. Which I gotta admit was humorous. Their music was interesting, to say the least. The sounded like a grunge version of The Kinks mixed with Dr. Dog. It was fun to watch the keyboard player, who seemed to have more fun than anyone else in the band. I can see this band making waves on the music blog scene, but not really going too much further than that. Maybe they will be a hit in 20 years, when kids are looking back for obscure music of 2010.
Surfer Blood took the stage next, which I honestly was surprised about. They have several singles on the radio and seem to be gaining commercial success. I assumed they would be the headliners. I always have compared them to Pavement, based on the single "Swim," but last night there was no tone of Pavement at all. If anything, they were a mix between The Smiths and The Shins. John Paul Pitts, the lead singer, had the same flamboyance and swagger as the mighty Morrissey while he sang to the audience. These actions were off-putting at first, but then I got into it. He was so into his songs, and the band really seemed to be having fun performing for us. Their set of songs started to blend into one another, and by the fifth song or so I was over it and ready for The Drums to take the stage.
When The Drums came on, satin jackets and all, the crowd went wild. It was obvious they were the sought-after act of the evening. As soon as the first chord was played, the audience and band were on fire. I thought Surfer Blood's lead singer was too much like Morrissey, but yet again I was mistaken. Jonathan Pierce banged the mic and slithered all over the stage. All he was missing was flowers in his back pocket. Its very clear this band has the influences of 1980s English Pop. The best way to describe this band is to blend together Morrissey, Echo and the Bunnymen, Suede and Joy Division. Kind of my dream band to be honest. I always wished to have seen one of those bands, and last night I feel like I got as close as I could. Unless, of course, I get a time machine. There even is the irony that those British bands evoke. Pop, uplifting music taken over by depressing lyrics. Two descriptions given of songs were "This one's about my best friend, who is dead" and "This one's about a girl I hate very, very much" followed by such upbeat, fun dance music. I strongly urge you to listen to this band, if you are a fan of the British pop music of the ~~~80s, you will not be disappointed. I could go on and on about them, but I won't. This blog is long enough.
Final thoughts on yesterday; CMJ is amazing, I'm blessed to be here, look forward to tonights events, and last but not least I know how to sneak into hard venues, so Arcata Theater Lounge better watch out on their next sold out event!