CMJ in one day

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  November 30, 2008

I’m supposed to wrap up my first night with A-Track, Kid Sister, and Flosstradamus at the Fools Gold ripper. This is problematic, however, since it turns out that show is tomorrow. I’ve been here less than one day and I’m already misreading my schedule – an error that results in me toasting nightcaps at a death metal showcase. Good thing I’m only staying for another 30 hours.

I’m sitting in a panel discussion titled “Major Label Outlook: What’s Left?” that I expect to address the self-sabotage and looming destruction of colossal imprints. But instead of candidly admitting how badly they stumbled, the executives mostly defend a wasteful and archaic industry that everyone but them knows is bound for apocalypse.  

EMI honcho Phil Wild does a lot of the talking, and he’s a cool enough dude if you can get past his being responsible for Robbie Williams, Matchbox 20, Hootie, Korn, and the Blowfish. Of the five speakers, Wild is the least confident in his racket; at one point he concedes that major labels are only helpful if “the stars align,” which, as any artist who’s ever been indefinitely shelved will attest, is as common as one’s lotto picks aligning.

I’m furiously writing down the ridiculous comments being lobbed at the audience. When asked about the conglomerate that’s determined to buy every mid-to-large size venue on the planet, Sony Legacy General Manager Adam Block says: “We should be grateful to the Live Nations of the world.” On the subject of major labels overspending on production, RCA Senior VP of A&R David Wolter smugly notes: “Some acts just need to work with certain producers.” It’s like watching Bush Republicans defend their trade and economic policies.

These guys are all in complete denial, but Wolter is the only genuine d-bag. He’s a whiney puke whose every sentence begins with a pregnant pause; at one point he actually says that he considers it a “bad sign” when bands don’t send thank you notes after meetings. Now it makes sense why so many vapid groups get major label deals; true creative types tend to stray from Emily Post conventions. 

I drink my first beer of the afternoon at Pianos, where Brooklyn Vegan has a three-room daytime bash flaring. This spot is great, but it’s a bitch to get into after midnight. The bartender tells me that the line yesterday was for “some band with a song on an iTunes commercial or something gay like that.”

This joint is always stuffed with cute, naïve tattooed chicks and the dangerously thin, parentally subsidized men who they love. This guy next to me could be the Pianos' poster boy with his red Chucks, tweed jacket, shoulder bag, and ironic schoolboy haircut. He even has the act to match his outfit; dude doesn’t acknowledge that he’s at all impressed by the entertainment.
This three-man acoustic outfit called Twi the Humble Feather is much sweeter than its name, and I find myself floating into a guitar and lager haze. All music should be this refreshingly unpretentious; for a moment I don’t feel foolish for being the last person in lower Manhattan who still wears baggy jeans.

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