Ment’s CMJ Marathon Diary
By the time you read this, maybe we’ll know if and when the next CMJ Marathon will hit the Big Apple.
CMJ Wed. Oct. 22 What is it about a concert hall of life broadcast setting that makes people want to cough.? In a 5th-floor studio at the Museum of Television and Radio this question came to me as the KEXP simulcast disc jockey turned the airwaves over to Mando Diao for a set being piped back to the West coast. The band’s second so-in-to-themselves tune ran a little too long, with verrry emotional choruses. After a brief interview they set into a bluesy number that at least moved my feet a little. They said that not a lot of bands that make it out of Sweden are very Swedish. O.K. Thurs. Oct. 23 Yoko Ono said “I didn’t break up the Beatles. They weren’t that stupid,” when an imp in the audience offered the irrelevant question during her interview with Robert Christgau. Ono has lent use of Lennon’s “Imagine,” to Amnesty International. Anything that keeps the message out there is O.K. with me. FILM The Cooler @ Lowes State Theater. I hear a Baldwin won a best supporting for this dark little trip through the world of an old Vegas

superstitionthat of the like-named cooler - . The idea that a fellow next to you could bring bad luck strikes me as too over the top, but very believable in this William H. Macy vehicle with a score by Mark Isham. He loses his ability to ruin the table when a hottie (Maria Bello) apparently falls for him. That doesn’t sit too well with the old-time casino boss Baldwin - who later revived this sort of role for a cameo on TV’s Las Vegas. Good popcorn at those Lowes theaters - not like the crap you can buy at some upstate NY theaters. Anti-Flag @ B.B. Kings. Oops, too late. Too crowded. Can’t get in. And they’re arresting kids on 42nd St. for drinking beer. Asian Nite at Siberia Bar, 356 W. 40th St., NYC Caught Spunks and the glorious Gito Gito Hustler, who are featured on the cover of this here Rag. Riding handlebars around the murky basement at Siberia, Spunks energy was undeniable. These boys like punk. Likewise Gito Gito Hustler, who in the spirit of the Ramones played old Motown tunes and originals as though there was no difference between the two. Fri. Oct. 24 Julia Darling on the day-stage, back at the Hilton - very beautiful, tightly crafted songs. “A warm gun is easily sung then done. ... “ At a panel on market share, Peter Jenner, best known to me as Billy Bragg’s manager, said we need to watch companies like Clear Channel’s reaction to the Dixie Chicks’ unfavorable comments about president G.W. Bush. “If you let the market place solve these problems, they’re going to keep controlling things.” Uh huh, you tell’em. KEXP/KCRW broadcast, Death Cab for Cutie, offered pop melodies for Nic Harcourt’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” show. It was very sensible pop indeed. These folks enjoy what they do, playing even after the show segment had left the air proved as much. Girls Garage at Irving Plaza I would have likes to see Candy Ass. - But Have I mentioned I still hate Irving Plaza? Most of my worst memories of the musical life center around this club - oh and that Town Hall show a few years back. I hate Irving Plaza. Sat. Oct. 25 At the Independent Press panel, “authorities” offered “If you love us, subscribe.” I can deal with that. Send $4 for five issues to Urban Rag, P.O. Box 812, Tannersille, NY 12485. - oops. Slightly smarmy bunch - these fanzine types. The Stills/Echo at Webster Hall - heavy guitar -influenced 80s sort of sound, influenced no doubt by the bill with Echo and the Bunnymen. The bunny guys must have been playing their hits because the people around me were mouthing the words. Shamefully, I recognized only their biggest of those hits. I asked a gal if she was scheduling a doctors’ appointment on her cell ,but she was checking the score for game six of the world series. Yankees were losing by two, I think. EAK’s spin: Everybody reading the Rag knows what CMJ is ­ the industry confab where college radio programmers come to discover what is going to be the next grunge. There were plenty of great musical up-and-comers ­ such as The Stills or Death Cab for Cutie, but CMJ also sported a host of activists this year. Keynote speaker Yoko Ono, often panned for her musical outings, is nonetheless an inspiration for her work in art and political activism. ... The multi-talented and indefatigable women has also recently reprised a performance piece in which gallery visitors are invited to use scissors to cut off her clothes. I know women of all ages are inclined to issues with body image but Ono is now in her 70s. More power to her. Other longtime activists included MC5’s Wayne Kramer and rock, C&W, bluegrass great Steve Earle. Kramer tested the first amendment and the tolerance of cops as founding member in MC5 in the 70s ­ a firebrand of rock power that imploded into rockstar excess. Kramer has refocused his career and continues to be a great creator ­ as we discovered at a screening of The Cooler ­ the tale of Nu Vegas vs. old school Vegas that Kramer penned and directed. Also reaching out to fans through the silver screen instead of a music performance was Steve Earle ­ whose record label Artemis ­ filmed a documentary about Earle called “Just an American Boy.” My only complaint was that the small Two Boots Theatre in the East Village wasn’t filled to capacity with people who may have been surprised to learn that in addition to his music and anti-death penalty activism, Earle is also a poet, playwright, and the wrong person to have with you in the car if you get pulled over in Nashville. Some CMJ stages showcased performers who were beneficiaries of activism ­ the showcase at Siberia Bar (continued, page after next) mixed Japanese performers with rock and punk acts once secreted behind the Great Wall. Bands like Peelander Z hailing from Beijing rocked out in great style. The CMJ lineup not only looked to the future but also gave a loving nod to the past with appearances by 80s greats Killing Joke and the stellar Echo and the Bunnymen. The voices may be a little weaker but they still breath life into the soundtracks of our youths. Sharing the opening night stage with KJ were Black Box Recorder and Beta or VHS. Black Box Recorder is silky and smooth and distinctly British. Like a Roxy Music with a seductive female lead singer (Sarah Nixey), the band creates dreamy auralscapes and embellishes them with a machine-ish drum beat and a blasee’d approach to gloomier psychological themes. Their 1998 single, “Child Psychology” was banned in England, where censors missed the wry cynicism in the brilliant refrain delivered in deadpan, “Life if unfair/Kill yourself or get over it.” Beta or VHS delivers heavy handed, 80s style no-wave gems. I was especially impressed by there post-modern double bass drum ­ not a drum really at all ­ just two foot pedals hooked up to some sort of synth drum pickups. The minimalist instrument is an apt metaphor for this band as it putsa human rawness front and center while the technology that leverages its human creations is all but hidden in a tangle of instrument cables on the stage. -EAK