Radiation City: CMJ Music Marathon Blog
With their effusive, dreamy, retro-60s girl group panache, Radiation City, out of Portland, Oregon, cut their own warm, distinctive path at this year's CMJ Music Marathon. The band plays one last CMJ gig today, October 22, at Spike Hill at 3 p.m., introducing New York to their confident debut album The Hands That Take You, out now on Tender Loving Empire/Apes Tapes.
The Alternate Side asked the band — Cameron Spies, Lizzy Ellison, Randy Bemrose and Matt Rafferty — if they'd document their virgin CMJ Music Marathon experience via a blog and photos and they happily did below. While reading, check out three of Radiation City's tracks, "Park," "The Color of Industry" and "Summer is Not An Act 1."
Radiation City continue their ongoing U.S. tour on October 25 in St. Louis, Missouri, wrapping their road trip on October 31 to play a special hometown show at Portland's Wonder Ballroom with Lost Lander and Brothers Young.
CMJ - Week long marathon of madness
This is our first time at CMJ. It's not unlike many of the festivals we've attended over the years, but being on the other side of things (playing) makes things very different. The week-long extravaganza is one of the more exhausting experiences we've had as band, and it's quite delightful, although fatigue set in quickly, due to free drinks and non-stop schmoozing. There aren't many opportunities to see the bands you'd like to see (due to playing multiple shows in one day), but sometimes you play a showcase with some remarkable bands that makes it all worth it. [Friday afternoon, October 21] was one such showcase. We were asked to play for Distiller's showcase at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, opening for WATERS and Yellow Ostrich, and playing after Fidlar.
Fidlar is a name we'd been hearing about, since we arrived in New York, as a band to see. As we were loading our gear in, they began their set and blew the large crowd that attended away. Heavy early 90's inspired grunge-punk, with slightly immature lyrics, but tastefully so. They screamed about smoking weed and doing cocaine, perhaps even while in NYC. Spit flew from the lead singer's mouth, which is lovely to see (unless you're the next band to play and you normally go barefoot). They played what seemed like 10 songs in a matter of 25 minutes, at full volume, with no hesitation. It was exactly what this festival needed as most bands and acts tend to lean towards more current trends.
There were other acts in between including PUJOL, Lights Out and The R's, but unfortunately hunger was calling and we needed to eat.
Upon returning, WATERS (previously part of Port O'Brien) had already taken the stage. A wall of heavy distorted guitars pleasantly filled the air as Van Pierszalowski's voice resonated, surprisingly above the chaos. We'd recently watched their video, "For The One," and were very excited to be sharing the stage with his new project. I wish we had caught more of their performance, but the two songs we saw were stunning and not surprisingly so.
Finally, Yellow Ostrich took the stage. After having a beer for breakfast and Thai food for lunch, exhaustion kicks in. I was ready to leave, but their loops and infinite amount of instruments and pedals sucked me in. If you closed your eyes, it would sound as if a six- piece brass section and trio of singers were helping the band achieve their incredible sound, but no. Alex Schaaf has mastered the art of looping vocals and horns to sound larger than life, silencing the crowd. But it didn't stop there. Drummer Michael Tapper (Fool's Gold, We Are Scientists) had what appeared to be a cashew shell tambourine attached to his high-hat, making the most delicate, but effective, sound. They made me feel similar to how Braids makes me feel; there is still music being made that has heart. I can't wait to see what happens with these guys.
This showcase made CMJ worth coming to, even if nothing happens for us.
— Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison (and all of us in Radiation City)