How To Maximize Your CMJ Experience
Catch Hunters at CMJ 2013
It's that time of year again where the venues of New York City--in particular, the Lower East Side and Williamsburg--are flush with eager music fans hoping to catch a secret show with an artist they love or discover their new favorite band from Iceland/the UK/New Zealand/etc. The CMJ Music Marathon kicks off Tuesday, and there are a plethora of events--including rock n' roll yoga and film screenings--to choose from.
... Or are they? CMJ offers plenty of options for festival-goers and badge holders, but the golden ticket (or, in this case, laminate) won't necessarily get you into the show you've been dying to see. Even if you know the door guy. Even if you're friends with the manager. And even if you've come to New York from far away and you made the mistake of thinking that dumb luck would get you into 285 Kent on Saturday night five minutes before the band's supposed to go on.
Approaching CMJ with a game plan in place will drastically reduce the amount of hate you have for your wallet, your shoes, public transportation and the rock and roll gods, as a music festival, more often than not, presents as many challenges as it does unforgettable, inimitable moments of sonic bliss. Here's a quick and handy guide to maximizing your CMJ experience so that you don't wake up on Sunday morning with a bitter taste of regret. (Or less of a taste of regret, as hell, a lot of these parties involve free beer or open bars and very few of us are immune to that kind of debauchery.)
Plan accordingly, because "at capacity" means "at capacity." Bad news, badge-holders: there are only so many spots for even those with cred to get into the packed shows. Get thee to the set you'll be most bummed to miss an hour early just to be sure. Bonus: you'll get to catch openers you wouldn't necessarily seek out and likely head home with a new favorite band to listen to on the trek downtown the next afternoon.
Pick and choose. It is completely and totally impossible to hit every set you want to without bending the laws of physics or the MTA. Instead of focusing on what bands you'd like to see, take showcases into consideration on a lineup-by-lineup basis. Do you love KEXP's live sessions? Grab a great cup of coffee and put your feet up for a couple of hours while watching them tape one live. Is your new favorite music blog partnering up with a label or putting together a showcase of their own? Trust their judgment and take in a bit of the lineup they curated as opposed to popping in for a 20-minute set and ducking out early. Two to three hours in the same location will save you the hassle of trying to find a cab on Rivington at 8 p.m. on Saturday night (which is a laughable feat) and you're guaranteed to discover some new favorite bands following that lead.