CMJ Founder’s new music conference is picking up steam in its third year
It was 20 years ago this past June that I got my first job in the music industry, working as an editorial assistant for CMJ New Music Report. As a college radio DJ for the SUNY New Paltz station WFNP 88.7 FM, reading the NMR was a weekly ritual while hanging out in the music director’s office, informing how I should shape my show in the dead of Friday night and the wee hours of Tuesday morning when the farmers were waking up. So getting the opportunity to become a staff member of this publication—only three weeks after graduation—was indeed the job score of a lifetime for a relatively unconnected young writer with a headful of MTV’s The Week in Rock and old copies of Trouser Press driving my perception of creative music journalism.
Two years later, sadly, myself and several of my colleagues found ourselves out of a job after CMJ was bought out by a dot-com chop shop called Rare Medium, kicking off a downward spiral of unfortunate business and editorial decisions that would see the once powerful music industry mover-and-shaker painfully fade away into the deepest recesses of the Internet before quietly closing up shop altogether in 2016.
However, original CMJ publisher and owner Bobby Haber—who began the publication out of his parents’ house at the height of the punk era—has returned to the presently overcrowded festival-and-conference circuit with Mondo.NYC, a new music festival based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that begins today and runs through October 5th out of The Williamsburg Hotel on Wythe. And just as Haber saw the hole in the market back in 1978 for covering the wide-ranging circuit of college radio stations across the country with CMJ, he turns his eye towards the hopeful landscape of blockchain, cryptocurrency and bitcoin and the way by which these new technologies are enhancing the new music market. I’ve always admired my first boss in this business and the way by which he grew CMJ into something—had it been allowed to make the push onto the Internet the way he wanted in the late 90s—that would easily rival Pitchfork and Stereogum today; and to see him emerge from the rubble of that company with his explorer’s cap firmly back on as he ventures into the unknown once again with Mondo.NYC makes the promise of this festival realer than it’s been since its inception in 2016.
This year, in addition to the conference which features such esteemed speakers as Richard Barone, Robert Glasper, Hank Shocklee of the legendary Bomb Squad, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Eddie “King” Roeser of Urge Overkill among other noteable industry insiders and business-types, there will be over 125 different acts playing what’s left of the clubs in Brooklyn and Manhattan over the course of the four-day festival. This year’s lineup and theme is indeed a huge step forward in the right direction, and it would be great to see the momentum build from here to create something that will resurrect the spirit of Bobby’s original vision of the CMJ New Music Marathon.
Here are seven artists in particular we think you should check out, and make sure you scope out Mondo’s schedule for other bands and solo performers breathing a new air of excitement to a city in dire need of a good, steady music festival once again.
For more information about Mondo.NYC, pay them a visit at https://mondo.nyc.
Thursday Oct. 4
In the last days of the CMJ Music Marathon, one of the most exciting acts to play the festival was South Carolina’s Gangstagrass, whose combination of L.A. bluegrass jump and heady West Coast hip-hop deserves far more recognition than it gets, that’s for damn sure. Now the group’s Emmy-nominated lead vocalist and producer Rench is stepping out under his own guise with a flavor that owes a tip of the Stetson to Eric Church and mid-70s Waylon Jennings, and will be testing out new material at good old Arlene’s Grocery, one of the last bastions of the old Lower East Side in 2018.
Coney Island Baby
Wednesday Oct. 3
These young brothers from Los Angeles make a new brand of Sunset Strip rock that comes off like Faster Pussycat if they really let their Stones and Dolls influences take prominence in the hair metal era. They are currently in the process of working on their first album, but the prowling first single “End of the Love” is a good taste of what to expect if you head down to see them at Coney Island Baby on Avenue A.
N.O.R.D. (New Old Rock Deli)
Friday, October 5
Try and look up The Parkers on YouTube and there’s a strong chance you’re only gonna get hit with a ton of old Countess Vaughn clips . However, it’s well worth the hunt once you do reach this New York City-based synth-pop trio on their active Facebook page, whose music sounds like Lana Del Rey actually writing songs with all those killer rock T-shirts she wears in paparazzi photos. The talented combination of sisters Anya and Kate Parker-Lentz (21 and 17, respectively) and drummer Henry Kane (20) are part of a promising new breed who, along with Starcrawler and the Lemon Twigs, gives hope to us old folks that rock ‘n’ roll has found a safe home with the nation’s young youth once again.
Thursday, October 4
“Syrian Techno” is how Bjork once described the music of Omar Souleyman. And with Kieran Hebden at the controls, the Englishman behind Four Tet adds a whole new dimension to that term on the controversial Arab pop icon’s electrifying Ribbon Music debut. Bolstered by the unapologetic Korg maneuvers of frequent collaborator Rizan Sa’id, Souleyman channels the frustration of an entire nation of people caught in the crossfire of a war beyond their control on such juggernaut jams as “Nahy”, “Khattaba” and “Mawal Jamar”. Another phrase that has been used to describe the music of this legendary Middle Eastern figure is “folk-pop”. If that, too, is the case, then consider Wenu Wenu to be Omar Souleyman’s Blonde on Blonde.
Tuesday October 2
Born not from the La Brea tarpits but rather the coastal region of New Hampshire, it’s easy for people to hear these guys and immediate try to peg them as kindred spirits to groups like Modest Mouse or Animal Collective. But when you dive into the excellent, excellent new album by the Woolly Mammoths, CITYZEN https://m.soundcloud.com/the-woolly-mammoths-band/c-i-t-y-z-e-n/s-ZXqou?in=the-woolly-mammoths-band/sets/c-i-t-y-z-e-n-by-the-woolly-mammoths/s-0zRk6, you will hear more of a spiritual unity with Tubeway Army and early OMD than any misguided hipster allocation. Maybe even a little Pure Guava Era Ween, if you’re in the right mindstate. Seeing this band at Mondo in 2018 will be like seeing R.E.M. at CMJ in 1985: you’ll regret not being there.
Wednesday, October 3
With a feel that falls somewhere between old school Portishead and new school FKA Twigs, Brooklyn’s Lea Capelli—as L’FREAQ—has enjoyed an audience with the late Muhammad Ali and saw her cover of Peggy Lee’s “Angels On Your Pillow” used as bed music for NBC’s The Voice. She just released a killer new single, “New Skin,” and will be performing a stripped down set at Brooklyn’s The Well during Mondo. We can only hope a full-length LP isn’t too far off, because from what we’ve heard so far we’d like to continue to get our L’FREAQ on!
Wednesday, October 3
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thursday, October 4
Sacha Baron Cohen’s pipebomb of a Showtime series Who Is America? was ambush television at its most hilarious and also its most horrifying. Laying the groundwork for the sense of absurdist urgency of the show, however, was the dead serious production of DJ Shub, a Mohawk of the Six Nations reserve located in Ontario, Canada, and the undisputed Godfather of “PowWowStep”, an intoxicating fusion of indigenous rhythms and electronic beats. Having first come onto the scene in the 00s as a member of the electronic music trio A Tribe Called Red, Shub has since stepped out on his own as a solo artist, highlighted by his single “Indomitable,” which was used as the theme music to the aforementioned Cohen show. He is currently at work on his full-length solo debut, which he will surely be previewing at his pair of performances at this year’s Mondo.