The CMJ Music Marathon is a big event in New York City, and this year is no exception. With it come conferences, panels, and even artist showcases – specifically the Neon Gold showcase at Manhattan’s own Webster Hall. Thursday night saw the rush of fifteen different bands on three different stages, giving those who attended (and bothered to walk around) the experience of a small-scale music festival.
The very first act to perform was a ferocious band named PARTYBABY, taking over the Grand Ballroom at 6:05 p.m. on the dot. The frontman had wildly curly hair, a rainbow electric guitar, and was rubbing up against his fellow band members at seemingly every opportunity. Their sound was intense but not extreme, with high-pitched vocals assuring the crowd that what they were seeing was not quite hardcore. Next came Lewis Del Mar, a truly amazing band from Rockaway Beach. They played down in the Studio to a packed crowd, and from the first song it was easy to see why. Heavy drums and a solid bass line held the music together while the lead singer’s vocals gave off a reggae vibe that was to die for. They were so powerful that it was hard to believe they were the first act playing on the smallest stage in the house.
Back up in the Grand Ballroom, Machineheart gave us a dose of college radio-ready pop rock. Lead woman Stevie appeared as though she would be right at home at Coachella, with a pink fringe leather jacket topping off her otherwise all-black look. Their rhythm was certainly more upbeat and palatable than PARTYBABY’s, and the crowd reacted in kind. Of course, they were gearing up for Joe Jonas’s new band DNCE, who once onstage proceeded to do a cover of Drake‘s “Hotline Bling”. Depending on the age of the person in question, those in the audience were either screaming along or covering their face in embarrassment.
Down in the Studio again, Johanan brought us back to the ’70s with tie-dye and tube socks. Their sound was intoxicatingly good, and it was matched with incredible energy to boot. Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, they gave New York a dose of exotic excitement we didn’t know we needed. Then at 9:30, Smallpools finally took the stage in the Grand Ballroom. They definitely kept the audience on their toes, doing an acoustic mash-up of “Lean On” by Major Lazer and “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers and throwing out giant inflatable killer whales during their performance of, you guessed it, “Killer Whales”. At one point, Sean Scanlon asked everyone in the crowd to put their phones away for the following song and proceeded to walk directly into the middle of the floor, testing our collective willpower. Closing out their encore with the famed “Dreaming”, Smallpools gave us a dance party worthy of the gods.
At the tail end of the night, Client Liaison was the last act to perform in the Studio at 10:30. They didn’t officially take the stage until twenty minutes after that, but once they did, the wait was immediately made worth it. With a ’80s mullet and sequined jacket, the lead singer boasted some of the most infectious dance moves of the entire showcase. The music had a seriously awe-inspiring feel; nobody seemed to want the Australian rockers to walk off the stage at the end of their performance. For those who managed to catch their relatively small set, they surely felt like the luckiest people in the city. Client Liaison did Neon Gold Records, Webster Hall, and every other band on the lineup proud.