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CMJ 2009: It's A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Bear Hands

Bear Hands

by's that time of the year again. CMJ Music Marathon 2009. A five-day frenzy of showcases, panels and venue-hopping for music fans from just about everywhere on the planet.

Truth be told, the whole process can be quite intimidating. Have you spent time perusing the CMJ schedule for this year? It's overflowing with potential panels, showcases and live shows to experience, and deciding what to see is often a difficult decision.

I've spent several CMJs running around New York City like a madman, covering more ground than a Yellow Cab. Hustling from panel to panel, from showcase to showcase, from venue to venue. The goal was really simple, see everything! This is probably the best strategy for out-of-towners or newbies. There's something to be said for experiencing everything CMJ and NYC have to offer during this music marathon. While I have no regrets about taking this strategy in years past, it's not how I choose to tackle CMJ these days.

Why? Well, the "see everything" strategy has its downfalls. First of all, you tend to miss a lot of bands. It's no secret that set times are always off. You end up running from venue to venue to see specific bands and you end up missing them.

Then there's the transportation issue. You spend half the night (and half your money) in taxi cabs, subways, and sometimes even pedicabs (looooong story) which gets frustrating. Plus, there's the exhaustion factor. After two days or three days (depending on your age and alcohol intake) of this insane behavior you are absolutely spent. If you do make it out on the final night or two you're in a zombie-like state, sitting through an entire Band of Bees show thinking it's Band of Horses. Not pretty.

Nah, these days I much prefer a more relaxed strategy. Pick one or two showcases that are important to you and head to the venue and make it your home. Sitting through a couple of bands you've never heard of while you wait for the band you actually came to see is the best way to get turned on to new music. Sure, it might mean missing Cookie Martini's DJ set at Cake Shop, but it's all good. You'll get to see The Antlers as planned and you're also introduced to the music of Bear Hands and Delorean - without ever having to leave the comforts of The Delancey. You'll save on transportation costs. Plus, the exhaustion factor decreases significantly, leaving you with more energy to rock n' roll during the final couple days of the festival.

Remember friends, it's called the CMJ Music "Marathon" for a reason. Be careful not to sprint.