After four days in NYC, the greatest city in the world (sorry Portland), a MetroCard, and a CMJ badge, these are the highlights of what I saw at this year's CMJ Music Festival:
Wednesday, September 14: I saw Big Boi! As in the pitbull-breeding half of Outkast that doesn't wear the feather boa. His somewhat last-minute Knitting Factory show was a complete mess of chaotic people fighting to get in, bouncers fighting to keep them out, and a stage of way too many MCs fighting for mic time. Killer Mike phoned it in, while long-forgotten white-rap dinosaur Bubba Sparxxx was a no show, dang. And just in case you are wondering what the hospitality request for Outkast's entourage was, it was 165 BBQ chicken wings from Domino's.
Thursday, September 15: That whole "I'm from Portland, so I don't need an umbrella" thing wasn't making much sense once rain clouds gathered over the Central Park Summer Stage as Arcade Fire took the stage. But the rain held off, and the band stomped through their always-exciting set of material from Funeral. The rather tepid outdoor crowd switched gears during the encore, collectively losing it at the site of one Mr. David Bowie taking the stage. Offsetting the Arcade Fire uniform of black suits, Bowie was all decked out in Thin White Duke garb as he joined the band by playing his own "Queen Bitch." After that they finished with the Fire's "Wake Up," complete with an ear-to-ear grinning Bowie singing lead on the song's first verse.
Friday, September 16: Watching baby-prog spazzsters Facing New York do an aerobic set alarmingly similar to the onstage highjinks of At The Drive-In, complete with bobbing afros and scissor kicks, still it's hard to fault them for mimicry, especially since ATDI called it quits when these kids were probably still in headgear. Meanwhile across town, twee-gazing NY-popsters Dirty on Purpose took their fair share of the hype spotlight away from Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah, playing almost daily during the festival.
Saturday, September 17: Few things can make up for a half week of too much loud music and shows that start at 2:30 am, but one of them is seeing Against Me!, at noon. Not-so-neck-bearded anymore, the band shook off the sad fact that they were just playing with Green Day in a football stadium, and now were resigned to play a breakfast-time set in Brooklyn. Plus there were doughnuts; always an added plus to daytime punk shows. Feeling under the gun to see as many bands and drink as many drinks as humanly possible, the next 12-14 hours were a loud blur. The problem doesn't lie with the fact that I saw close to 30 bands in less than four days—the problem is that for me, it wasn't enough.