ASCAP Bands Rock the 2003 CMJ Music Marathon!

Black Car Lovedrug Menlo Park Prosaics The Killers Toothpick

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. Prosaics, Menlo Park, The Killers, Lovedrug, Black Car, Toothpick, 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!

Toothpick
Toothpick

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.).

Black Car
Black Car

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.

Lovedrug
Lovedrug

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 along.

The Killers
The Killers

 

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.

Menlo Park
Menlo Park

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.

Prosaics
Prosaics

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 stellastarr*.

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, Radiohead.

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 Benson.

-- Jin Moon