Posted Oct 23rd, 2014 (9:29 am) by Sarah Wilson

CMJ Music Marathon is one of the most aptly named festivals on the planet. Just like any marathon you must pace yourself, hydrate and if you were show hopping last night...bring an umbrella!

I had a huge list of bands to catch last night for CMJ. Sadly the list was paired way down due to horrible weather that made wandering venue to venue nearly impossible, even in the venue-dense lower east side.

After attending several of the seminars during the day I regrouped and started an early evening. First up was the New Zealand via London band Popstrangers, playing at Cake Shop. They play a chewy sort of indie pop that has a nice flash of good old indie rock to it. Made a nice intro for the night!

Next up I swung down to Rockwood Music Hall to catch someone who'd been recommended to me, Cariad Harmon. Now based in Brooklyn, Cariad is from London so her bluesy/folk sound has a unique spin and her voice is just fantastic. Really enjoyed her set and she makes a great reminder how awesome stepping out of your normal "go-to" comfort zone can turn out!

As her set wound down I scooted over to Pianos to catch (another) London band, Happyness. I'd heard good things and wasn't disappointed. A tight sounding, somewhat droning, indie rock band. Their sound could easily become addictive!

It's here things started to go south, so to speak. The weather, already drizzling and sort of cool has turned to straight up cold and raining. I paused at Starbucks to get out of the downpour and give my phone some more juice. I wanted to get up to Alphabet City to catch a few bands up there but the weather had other ideas. The cold rain drove me south instead to a funny little bar called Leftfield. (Apologies in advance to basement bands here...no light = no photos!) The venue boasts two stages in very few square feet. As the upstairs stage was setting up I went downstairs and caught the last bit of the band Cosmonaut, a new york indie band. They sounded good enough that I wish I'd caught more of their set!

Back up the steep steps I caught a band I'd actually earmarked as one of my 'should see' bands of the week, Skyroads. Based in Israel and playing a funky-fun synthy elctro-pop, the five piece was as good as I'd hoped. They clearly were having a blast and so was the audience. Playing a stage FAR too small for their energy, basically stacked vertically at the end of a long, narrow room, Skyroads didn't seem to notice the venue shortfalls...and neither did the packed room of people dancing along. Can't wait to hear more from these guys and would love to catch them in a 'proper' venue.

After their set next up was another Israeli artist performing as The Kokoro. For some reason her set took more than 30 minutes to set up, pretty unheard of for CMJ. While she clearly put a lot of thought and effort into costuming, visual effects and her overall persona, I'm afraid this wasn't one of my favorites of the night. I couldn't find anything as unique as she was billed to be about her music, her visuals or the vibe. I do wonder if the setting (so so small) had anything to do with it and will probably give her another listen to be sure.

Downstairs I could feel a band playing under my feet so I ducked out of Kokoro and headed back down to the lightless basement to catch Veda Rays; another band I'd marked on my 'should see this list'. I have to say I really liked lead man Jim Stark's voice and the overall vibe of the band was really good. Somewhat dark and moody with an undercurrent of shimmering keyboards which made for an interesting sound. I'm glad I caught them for sure!

So that was it for me for Wednesday. I was going to head out and try to catch some more but it had gone from raining to POURING so the day was cut short. I'm heading off in a few minutes to start pounding the pavement of the lower east side and later, Brooklyn for more. Stay tuned for Thursday's report!

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