Volume 76, Number 24 | November 1 - 7, 2006

Scene & Heard by Jen Carlson

The fall is a great time to be in the city for music fans: it’s prime touring time for bands, and the CMJ music festival takes over Downtown for five days. One of the best parts of CMJ, which runs from October 31st through November 4th, is that every space in town becomes a venue. Suddenly, even abandoned storefronts on Delancey Street house makeshift stages, a ton of fans, free beer and a whole lotta noise.

Unfortunately, there is no way you or I will be seeing all of the bands we’d like to, but the bands that weren’t accepted to play official showcases often find other parties and shows to play. Over the past year or so, bloggers have started hosting these unofficial parties, and this year, they have more shows at more venues than any previous CMJ festival. Since it can be hard to get through this overwhelming time of sonic saturation, I’m here to narrow it down for you.

ProductshopNYC.com scored Portland, OR band The Thermals for their party on November 3rd at Studio B in Brooklyn — exciting news for me as I’m a HUGE fan of this band. Their latest release has stuck to their hard and fast lo-fi sound, even though they’ve had a lineup change.

BrooklynVegan.com has three days of shows during CMJ. His lengthy lineups and details can all be found at his site. The shows are free and likely to be packed, of course — this is the best music blog out there, so the acts are all top shelf and highly linked all over the Blogosphere.

Over at Gothamist.com we’ve got “Gothamist House” set up from November 2nd to the 4th at the White Rabbit on Houston Street. The acoustic, stripped-down sets are all free and held during the afternoon. Some of the bands I’m looking forward to include Snowden (oft-gloomy dance rock with an intellectual twist), Charles Bissell (of New York band The Wrens), and Bound Stems (my favorite new band of the year, thus far, with Wolf Parade/Modest Mouse vocals and complex instrumental compositions).

One of the highlights of CMJ are the KEXP In Studios, held at Gigantic Records’ beautiful recording studio on Franklin Street (Philip Glass’s former studio). KEXP is a Seattle radio station, but it’s listened to worldwide, and many of its biggest supporters are right here in New York. The in-studio sets are free and held during the day — all you have to do is sign up at KEXP.org to get in. This year they’ve got keyboard-only band Hot Chip; Zach Braff-approved, “this band will change your life” The Shins, and buzz band Tokyo Police Club, plus many more.

Some of the bigger showcases I’ll be checking out are all fall on November 2nd, leaving the following lineups in direct competition — and leaving me to work out this whole space-time continuum thing. Bowery Ballroom has The Shins, The Thermals, CSS, The Album Leaf and more. Studio B has French Kicks, We Are Wolves, Thunderbirds Are Now!, Tokyo Police Club and Apes and Androids. And Mercury Lounge has ¡Forward, Russia!, Benjy Ferree, Malajube and Nicole Atkins. I’m guessing most people in the middle of the country do not see as many bands in one year as I’ll be seeing that one night — which may not be such a good thing for me.

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