CMJ 2011: Class Superlatives & Our Finest Photos

We’re on the other side of CMJ now, which you could probably tell by the uptick in the music news cycle, or by some bloggers’ (could be any bloggers, no way to know who I am talking about) bleary eyes and corresponding level of risibility. Stereogum threw a couple of parties early on, then shifted into showcase-hopping mode. Herein you’ll find a hand-selected collection of the finest and most representative photos of CMJ 2011 from our crew of exceptional photographers — Erez Avissar, Ryan Muir, and Jessica Amaya — which captures the week’s most important artists in exquisite settings and exposures. I know our gallery display mechanism is clumsy — we’re working on a more elegant viewer as I type — so please bear with it and give these shots a shot: Each of these bands are presented as an endorsement, and each of those shots is worthy of pupils. It’s essentially one shot per band, except for Trash Talk, who are represented in proportion to the amount they came up in conversation this week. (A lot.)

Moreso every year, CMJ is a festival of due diligence over true discovery. But a week-long barrage of free shows and “branded experiences” does provide a loose framework within which to note trends, or spread love, if there are trends or love worth spreading. To that end, here are The Most Notable Bands & Incidents Of CMJ 2011:

Best “New” Band

Well this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? There are a few contenders, and I suppose your mileage will vary depending upon who you ask, but the act that should be on everyone’s shortlist and certainly tops ours is Purity Ring. I put them on practically every Mixtape we make, which is a feat since they really just have three MP3s and some remixes to blog about. But the CMJ beat on them is one aspiring bands should study: They earned some internet attention, waited until ready, and came to CMJ prepared to make an impression. Their live show was simple — this act is two members, only — but theatrical, well performed, and highly considered, with strong songs (there are more than just “Ungirthed and “Belispeak” etc., promise) and captivating use of visual elements (i.e. The Light, The Lamp & The Wardrobe). I caught their Mercury Lounge show Friday night (after their also catching their Webster gig, and before leading some to Pianos the next day), and it was that rare thing you hope from a CMJ show but rarely get: a curious crowd prepared to be impressed after street-level buzz, and a band that delivered. If there was a breakout show at this festival, by our measure it was Purity Ring at Mercury Lounge. (Other relative newcomers that earned Honorable Mention status: FRIENDS, Dive, Fort Lean, Caveman, Grimes, and Gauntlet Hair.)

Most Discussed Band

When people say a band is “destroying” or “crushing” I quickly tune out. Unless they are talking about Trash Talk, in which case it is likely a fair and factual assessment. At Glasslands Wednesday night, circa 2AM, their minions poured beers on folks standing near the stage floor, a gesture that was actually quite thoughtful when you view it as a simple warning of what was brewing. (As such, it was successful: Those who were soaked in beer, and again, there’s no way to know who I’m talking about here, were soon in the balcony. Where, of course, they were not safe from Lee Spielman’s instigations and antics.) The band dominated and sorta destroyed Glasslands. Later in the week they played at the New Museum as part of Pitchfork’s younger sister Altered Zones’ bat mitzvah, and again, they used the space in appropriately New ways. Trash Talk break down barriers, in the rooms they play and in the discourse surrounding them. Maybe nothing is a better testament of that than this year at CMJ, where the most discussed band at this indie rock convention is an aggressive hardcore band from Sacramento. They aren’t “new,” but their crossover is novel.

Best Use Of A Museum

The Pitchfork crew’s alternative kid sister, Altered Zones, had her bat mitzvah on Saturday night with something of a coming out party at lower Manhattan’s New Museum. $25 ticket buyers got four free beers and were penned in to the lobby to drink them, where dudes in tracksuits put on a ping-pong exhibition and DJs played a mix of weird tapes from Africa and weird hip hop/electronica from America. The shows took place upstairs in the stageless sky room with beautiful views of the skyline and minimal views of the performers, and downstairs in a room with better views and even less place to hide from Trash Talk. While the prohibition of drinks in performance rooms only added to the quiet culture shock of seeing the abrasive music we’d been served all week in scuzzy rooms transplanted to this somewhat sterilized museum environment, the attention to detail and projected visuals all reeked of unforgettability and uniqueness and represented another step in the relationship between high- and indie-art that the internet’s been accelerating this past decade.

Best Fight

There were, for some reason, so many fights this year. Maybe it was the general unrest exhibited in protests like Occupy Wall St. bubbling uptown and permeating the CMJ environment, or maybe it was just a series of boneheads with rage issues finding themselves in situations they should not have been allowed into. I saw one at the Bleep Bloop Fest thing Carles and Tao Lin and Alan Palomo DJ’d at Cameo late Friday night, and a friend mentioned another at Glasslands (some night that Trash Talk wasn’t performing, that is). The winner here, though, is ASAP Rocky and his goons, who allegedly started some sort of a skirmish with their FADER Fort appointed sound dude that brought a premature cessation to activities at that space on Friday night. This is the photo of that action.

Best Chance To See Amy Klein In Titus Andronicus Before She Left The Band

Our show at Glasslands on Tuesday night was Amy Klein’s unexpected swan song with the band. The performance was, as always, a righteous and riotous affair, though if you need some visual proof that she was in full-on Amy Andronicus mode, let these photos by Ryan Muir tell you.

Most Humanizing Fact About MPC Wunderkind araabMUZIK

After doing a set at the Thompson Hotel, he mentioned (quietly, as is his way) how much his fingers hurt after brutalizing that machine/crowd. At the very least, his MPC probably appreciates that fact.