Standing outside the Trash Bar in Brooklyn, New York this weekend, TJ Metcalfe of Portland's Dead Man's Clothes said, "Let's punch New York in the face with a big block of Maine music."
That's pretty much what Dead Man's Clothes and six other Maine indie bands did Saturday night during the Portland showcase at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City.
A whirlwind five-day festival of non-stop music, CMJ has, over its 30-year history, served as a launchpad for bands such as R.E.M. and Arcade Fire to get noticed, get signed and make it big.
With more than 1200 bands playing CMJ this week, chances of Maine being home to this year's "breakout" group were slim. Instead, showcase organizer Bryan Bruchman wanted to simply focus on getting Portland the bigger platform it deserves.
"Everyone knows Portland has a great music and art scene, but the question is what to do with it," Bruchman told me before getting on stage to play with his band, Marie Stella. "Tonight isn't going to make anyone famous, but it will help get the bands introduced to the opportunities that are out there."
Bruchman, a former CMJ staffer who moved to Maine two years ago and now runs the Portland music blog HillyTown, pushed hard to create the showcase featuring Maine bands.
For the groups playing — Portland's Holy Boys Danger Club, Marie Stella, Good Kids Sprouting Horns, Dead Man's Clothes, Foam Castles, the Lucid, and Belfast's the Class Machine — the show was a chance to rock a city few of them had played before.
PHOTOS: Portland CMJ showcase at the Trash Bar in NYC, October 23
"I feel like this is such a stepping stone for an unsigned band," Miek Rodrigue, the lead singer for Holy Boys Danger Club, told me. "We love the energy, we love being here."
The bands played at the Trash Bar, a dimly lit club in Williamsburg where groups like TV on the Radio and Murphy's Law played before breaking onto the national stage. The show had a strong turnout and served as a reunion of sorts for the sizable crowd of young Mainers now living in New York City.
"It's nice to rally around a region," Nathan Raleigh from the Class Machine said. "The attitude of all the Portland bands is just so good. There's real support for each other."
Portland was in good company this year at CMJ. The other regional showcases at the festival included bands from Minneapolis, Montreal, and Ireland.
Driving down in old station wagons and crashing on friends' cat-piss-covered couches, the groups made their way to this "mecca of where bands come to be successful," as Rodrigue put it. They were helped by 47 individual donors to the "Maine Takes New York" Kickstarter page the bands created, raising more than $1500 to make the trip happen.
The showcase wrapped up with a blistering performance from the Holy Boys Danger Club, who took the stage a little after 1 am. Sweat dripping into his eyes as the set came to an end, Rodrigue told a cheering crowd, "What else can I say, this has been an amazing night."