by / November 13th, 2010 /

CMJ 2010 top 5 show highlights

Throughout this year’s CMJ, NYC bloggers, indie labels, and other determined do-it-yourselfers curated countless showcases at spaces of all types, with unofficial showcases much like the “counter-SXSW” events that happen in Austin every spring. This was all in addition to the official CMJ music marathon’s panels and showcases – an institution within the music industry since inception in 1980. The result? A win-win situation for all: if you had a badge, CMJ ruled. If you didn’t have a badge, CMJ ruled.

For me, this year’s highlights included both official showcases and unofficial DIY shows, as well as interesting panels (i.e. discussions on DIY show booking, music blogging, the influence of 1980s American hardcore on today’s indie music landscape) and College Day (a whole day dedicated to college radio, and the main reason my school’s station sent me this year). In terms of the shows, these were some highlights:

1. Cults and Laurel Halo

Cults, of Forest Family Records fame, are a NY-based band who play moody 60s-inspired pop songs. On record they are a duo, but they grew into a six-piece for this performance. Their set at Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn was one of the best I saw during CMJ, prefaced by a hypnotic set of lush, experimental pop by Brooklyn’s own Laurel Halo earlier in the night.

2. La Sera, Sweet Bulbs, Fergus and Geronimo

I’ve been listening to Sweet Bulbs’ dark noisepop demos on repeat for the past few months. Their full length is out next month via Blackburn Recordings. I saw them at a Gorilla vs. Bear showcase along with La Sera and Fergus and Geronimo on the bill as well. La Sera is the solo project of Vivian Girls’ bassist Katy Goodman; her set included both tracks from her new 7” out now on Hardly Art.

3. Wild Nothing

On the first night of CMJ I was pissed that I had to wait on line at Santos Party House for an hour to get into the Stereogum showcase. By the time I got to the front of the line, the venue was at “badge capacity” so I had to pay $5 for the show. In retrospect, $5 to see Marnie Stern, Wild Nothing, and The Drums is a bargain. The highlight of the night for me was Wild Nothing who played mostly all of the songs from Gemini, released earlier in the year by Captured Tracks. Check out this vid of them playing there:

4. Reading Rainbow & The Babies

This line-up was most definitely the best unofficial showcase I caught at CMJ. Reading Rainbow are a garage pop duo from Philadelphia; their track ‘Always on my Mind’ has been stuck in my head regularly since I saw them at CMJ. They played an Impose Magazine showcase at Don Pedros in Brooklyn with Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone’s other band, The Babies.

5. Oberhofer

After hearing their name buzzed about all week (as is typical by the end of CMJ week), I finally caught Oberhofer on the last night. They are a young, unsigned four-piece from Brooklyn, NY. They had already played 10+ shows throughout the week but still killed it with an energetic set of intricate pop songs a la The Morning Benders or Twin Sister, both of whom they appropriately are on a US tour with at the moment.

Photo via Pitchfork.