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Top 10 Picks of the CMJ Music Marathon

By DNAinfo Staff on October 18, 2011 7:11am

Fresh back from a short Icelandic tour, Caged Animals play Fat Baby on Wednesday night.
Fresh back from a short Icelandic tour, Caged Animals play Fat Baby on Wednesday night.
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By Danny Jumpertz

Special to DNAinfo.com

MANHATTAN — The College Music Journal's annual indie music shindig, the CMJ Music Marathon, hits New York Tuesday, immersing Downtown in live music, industry and media seminars and panels and even a film festival.

Since 1980, the CMJ Music Marathon has been an important stepping stone for independent-spirited rock bands on the rise. In past festivals, U2, R.E.M., Arcade Fire, M.I.A., The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The XX have successfully established their live credentials, and CMJ has arguably assisted their climb up the slippery slope to mainstream success.

Thousands of other bands, however, have not been so lucky.

DNAinfo.com has put together a list of suggestions for each day of CMJ, which runs until Saturday. Here are some tips for those thinking of attending.

How can I see the good stuff? Avoid most of the "hot" shows that everyone else will be going to. Remember, there are more than 1,350 bands playing this week. While many may not have the cachet of being anointed by the coolest music blogs, rest assured, by swimming against the tide you’ll find some diamonds in the rough. Check the CMJ schedule here and click on an individual event to see how many people are signed up to attend.

What will it cost me? A CMJ Full Badge, at $495, will get you in to to everything — gigs and conference events — space permitting, while a CMJ Show Pass covers only the live music and will set you back $149. If that's still a bit steep, don’t fret — a lot of the gigs are free.

There are also some off-beat, free events such as the Stomp Box exhibit. Stomp boxes are pedals that you can plug your electric guitar into to change its sound. BYO guitar and add fuzz, delay, compression, flanging or a combination of all of the above. The event will be going down at the Living Room's Googies Lounge and Ludlow Guitars on the Lower East Side on Friday, October 21, and Saturday, October 22, from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. RSVP here.

How can I listen to other bands appearing at CMJ? The organizers have put together a music sampler featuring artists such as Dum Dum Girls, Casiokids and Zola Jesus that you can download here.

If you're using Spotify, check out music website Spinner's playlist, featuring 101 tracks from CMJ 2011 bands here. Here are DNAinfo.com's picks for the coming days:

Tuesday 18 October

The Forms at Pianos, 158 Ludlow St at 4:15 p.m. FREE
After working with Steve Albini for their first two albums, The Forms recruited Matt Berninger (The National) and Nat Baldwin (Dirty Projectors) on their latest EP Derealization, and headed in a more electronic direction.

New Zealand CMJ showcase featuring Princess Chelsea, Andrew Keoghan, Pikachunes, Popstrangers, Street Chant, The Golden Awesome and Cairo Knife Fight at Le Poisson Rouge,  5:40 p.m.

Wild Flag  at The Bowery Ballroom, 10:30 p.m.
Wild Flag is a Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC based all-girl supergroup consisting of Carrie Brownstein, Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony, and Janet Weiss. The members of Wild Flag have played in Sleater-Kinney, The Minders, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and others.

The CMJ Film Festival is opening on Tuesday night with Pearl Jam Twenty — carved from more than 1,200 hours of archival footage, plus 24 hours of recently shot interviews and live footage, it’s the definitive documentary portrait of Pearl Jam as told by award-winning director and music journalist, Cameron Crowe.

Wednesday 19 October

Zola Jesus perform two shows, one at the Ace Hotel 10:30 a.m. and one at Le Poisson Rouge  8:00 p.m.
 Zola Jesus (aka Nika Roza Danilova) has gone from being an experimental teenage noise-maker to a fully fledged and internationally celebrated electronic pop musician in the past three years. Her new album is called Conatus.

Caged Animals at Fat Baby, 112 Rivington Street, 10:00 p.m. 
Fresh from a recent Icelandic tour, Caged Animals will be launching their self-titled album next month.

THe CMJ Film Festival: Killing Bono. Based on real events, it tells the story of young Irish rocker Neil McCormick and his younger brother Ivan, who attempted to become rock stars, but could only look on as their school friends formed U2 … and became the biggest band in the world. The film is based on Neil McCormick’s memoir, Killing Bono: I Am Bono's Doppelganger.

Thursday 20 October

Class Actress  at the Puma Store, 33 Union Square 2:30 p.m.

Class Actress is Elizabeth Harper, a former drama major from Los Angeles, now based in New York City. She writes bouncy electronic pop with a melancholic edge.

Friday 21 October

The Grates at 5:20 p.m. at Pianos. FREE. Catchy indie-pop from this popular Australian band.

Crocodiles at Bowery Ballroom at 11:00 p.m.
This is straight from their bio: "Potent but translucent strata of grainy, punk tinged headiness". Who could improve on that description?

Saturday 22 October

Gang Gang Dance at the Bowery Ballroom at 8:00 p.m. Gang Gang Dance's latest album Eye Contact was recorded in an old church converted to a recording studio in upstate New York, with a myriad of chimes, drums and good vibrations.

Some final useful links: An unofficial show and RSVP list from the blog My Free Concert, and WNYC's picks for the festival.