NEW YORK “" Tuesday marks the start of the 28th annual CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival, a four-day showcase of concerts, film screenings and panel discussions. Music fans in particular will find themselves spoiled for choice as more than 1,100 acts descend on New York City, including noteworthy acts like indie favorites Broken Social Scene, producer/deejay Mark Ronson, and Swedish chanteuse Lykke Li.
Here at Blast, we’ll be bringing you daily updates from the music portion of the festival, with reviews of performances and information about the artists we’re most excited to see, including Shiny Toy Guns, Chairlift, The Whip, Chris Pureka, Land of Talk and An Horse.
The daunting responsibility of sorting through the thousands of bands who apply to be a part of CMJ Week and picking the cream of the crop falls on the shoulders of Matt McDonald, the 31-year-old Vice President of Artists and Events for CMJ Network.
“We really try to pay a lot of attention to sort of the up-and-coming bands and artists, the bands that are obviously getting play on college radio and not commercial radio, since that’s sort of part of our heritage,” McDonald said. “The idea is that six months, a year from now, they’ll be that much bigger because of their CMJ performance.”
That’s proven true for several past CMJ Marathon performers, the list of which includes Death Cab for Cutie, Weezer and Arcade Fire.
“CMJ Music Marathon is really a chance to see the best of what’s up and coming … what you’re going to be hearing about in sort of bigger mediums before it actually hits,” McDonald said. “And a chance to really experiment with some totally unknown music, as well as some that you probably already know, and see the best of what New York City has to offer as well.”
About 75 venues in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, ranging in capacity from 30 to 3,000, will play hosts to the artists. The festival is designed in such a way “" tiny venues, coupled with the fact that multiple acts will be playing simultaneously around the city “" to ensure that each act will draw a crowd.
“There’s enough people around that each band can get attention without sort of getting lost in the shuffle,” McDonald explained. “If people can’t get into the show that everybody wants to get into, there’s going to be an equally deserving band at the venue next door.”
Throughout the year, McDonald said, he travels to music festivals around the world and keeps up with which bands are gaining buzz in Europe, the UK, and the U.S. “" a process that even he describes as “overwhelming.” In the end, the goal is to offer a lineup that fans of every musical genre can enjoy.
“It’s not just about indie rock, it’s about hip hop and songwriters and electronic music and metal,” McDonald said. “Truly kind of trying to get a balance where there’s really something for everyone, and the quality is high across the board. … I try and keep my personal tastes out of it.”
When it’s all said and done, though, McDonald rarely gets to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“I try to get to a couple shows,” he said. “It’s hard to get into the enjoyment mode when you’re thinking, I have to go make sure everything’s okay at the club across the street.”
For more information, visit www.cmj.com/marathon, and check back with Blast Magazine for updates throughout the week.