The hottest buzz bands came together
for ASCAP's 2003 CMJ Music Marathon
showcase and cocktail party and proved
that rock and roll is far from dead.
Park, The Killers,
Steve Reynolds and
All Night Radio all
seized the stage with their unique
brand of indie music to packed audiences.
Read on for a review of the performances
at the showcase on October 22 and
the cocktail party on October 23!
On Wednesday, October 22, my co-worker
Jenna and I picked up our CMJ badges, walking
through midtown towards the New York Hilton
Hotel in that brisk, cold Manhattan air
that keeps me on my toes. We were both excited
because it was our first year attending
the four-day music fest with badges. In
other words, we were ready to bounce from
show to show, and the bonus was that we'd
be sharing the experience!
After picking up our passes, we headed
to Don Hill's to help out with sound check
for the ASCAP CMJ showcase.
We got there just as Menlo Park was finishing
their check, and The Killers prepared to
go on stage to do their check. Jenna and
I were getting more and more excited about
the showcase as the day progressed, getting
a preview of how well put together the showcase
was and how high the quality of the bands
were (Kudos to all of the Pop/Rock ASCAP
membership reps for putting the stellar
night together! Your team effort is amazing.).
The ASCAP showcase started off with solo
rap-rock artist Toothpick,
whose real name is Doug Ray -- a former
member of former MTV buzzband, Bad Ronald.
He was nicknamed Toothpick for being the
skinniest kid on his high school track team,
and the name has stuck with him ever since.
As a born and raised New Yorker, his music
has an urban flavor that blends street with
humor, especially in songs like "Highlife."
He's gaining lots of attention, having toured
with Ziggy Marley. He took the stage and
got the audience moving with his deep voice
and acoustic guitar.
Next, a stripped down Black Car
took the stage with lead singer and songwriter
Dan Glendining on vocals and guitar and
an accompanying cellist. The songs were
beautifully sad and earnest, Glendining's
amazingly fluid vocals carrying rivers full
of raw emotion. Black Car's music was entrancing
and lovely on the ears, and the audience
was glued to Glendining throughout the set.
Ohio-based quartet Lovedrug
was up after Black Car and really impressed
me. Lead singer Michael Shepard sounded
like a mix of Doug Marstch from Built to
Spill and Wayne Coyne from Flaming Lips.
He alternated between playing guitar to
keyboards, kind of reminding me of Chris
Martin of Coldplay though the music is much
more upbeat, especially in songs like "Rock
& Roll." The comparisons, of course,
don't adequately describe the talent behind
this band. Their songs are full of joy and
heart, inspiring people to dance and sing
Then the hyped band of the evening, The
Killers, performed to a packed
club. Lead singer Brandon Flowers roamed
all over the stage, singing to screaming
fans upfront who already knew the words
to super-catchy tracks like "Jenny"
and "Mr Brightside." Their music
has the elaborate flair of 80s music, with
doses of Duran Duran, The Cure and The Psychedelic
Furs. Their pop songs bumped up the energy
in the room, setting up a lot of audience
excitement for the performance-driven band,
Menlo Park, a band based
in the UK but with members from all over
the globe, brought their eclectic high-energy
performance next to the Don Hill's stage.
Bringing a four-piece brass section with
them, the band's brand of quirky, percussion-filled
music piqued everyone's attention with distinctive
songs like "Porno Rodeo." Lead
singer Chris Taylor made every effort to
engage the audience by leaping into the
crowd and running laps around the venue
during the group's performance. The magnetic
singer didn't fail to catch everyone's attention,
and the lively music kept the buzz of the
showcase going strong until the last act,
New York-based Prosaics, took the stage.
The mood of the showcase changed from playful
to serious with the night's headliners,
Prosaics. Prosaics push
forth surges of emotion in their songs,
like veins bursting with fresh, hot blood.
Their music teemed with pain and sorrow,
accelerated by the rhythms of guitar, bass
and drums. Lead singer Andrew Comer stood
in his place on stage right for most of
the performance, pouring his intense vocals
straight into the mic. This is definitely
a band to watch for music lovers hip to
the Brooklyn music scene that has birthed
such indie rock stars as The Walkmen and
After the showcase, I downed one of those
Rockstar energy drinks for some pep, and
a bunch of us headed over to Lit Lounge
to celebrate the successful showcase. There,
we hung out a little bit with the Australian
band, Jet, who are making
lots of noise on the music scene with their
hit single, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl,"
and their impressive debut, Get Born.
Soon though, I started to doze off and headed
for home sweet home.
The next day, October 23, we had the ASCAP
Cocktail Party at Lit Lounge with
performances by singer-songwriter Steve
Reynolds and All Night Radio (half of Beachwood
Sparks). In the smoky cave that is Lit Lounge,
angel-voiced Steve Reynolds
cooed soft lyrics to a filled room. Though
usually this Los Angeles-based artist performs
with a full band, he took the stage that
night with only an acoustic guitar and a
stool. His strong vocals carried the heavy
weight of his melodic music and mesmerized
the audience. His songs definitely reflect
feelings of alienation and loneliness present
in one of Reynolds' biggest influences,
After he finished his set, All
Night Radio, also based out of
Los Angeles, took the stage. The duo are
half of popular Sub Pop band, Beachwood
Sparks, armed with drums, guitar and a laptop.
Their songs were more optimistic and uplifting
with higher-pitched vocals, akin to whimsical
artists and bands like The Shins and Brendan
-- Jin Moon