CMJ in one day

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  November 30, 2008

I walk a half-hour west to the Hiro Ballroom in the Maritime Hotel, and I don’t regret it. Yo! Majesty is nowhere in sight despite being on the flyer, and it’s too early for the headlining Hercules and Love Affair, but there’s a guy who looks so much like Rick James that he should be arrested.

The Hiro is a luxurious subterranean bunker – far removed from the dumpy East Side clubs where degenerates relieve themselves in bathroom sinks. This is the new face of CMJ – gift wrapped with a Scion sponsorship. 

I arrive for my Webster Hall encore at around 2 am. After scanning the guest list for at least five minutes, the promoter finally finds my name, making me the first person in nightlife history to actually be on a list that I insist be re-checked. Webster Hall has forever been one of my preferred venues, but it takes hard work and patience to gain access.

Kid Sister kicks “Life on TV” off her new album, and faithful neo-hipsters jerk around the dance floor. But as much as they savor her originals, the bounce accelerates when Flosstradamus slings a basic hip-hop mix. These kids would never admit it, but they wild out much more to mainstream Jay-Z tracks than they do Santogold club cuts. Also: hipster DJs need to stop playing “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop.” Dead Prez is talking about your “monotonous material” too.

I’ve always been the kind of Handi-Snacker who spreads all the cheddar on my first cracker and suffers through the rest. And in a sense, that’s how I’ve always digested CMJ: rage and learn for the first two days, and then crash and burn until departure.

This time I swallowed all the cheese in less than 48 hours, but left before things got stale. I even chewed heaping portions of indie junk and slugged some major label Kool-Aid. I’m a better critic for it; so far I haven’t even vowed to stop reviewing artists whose shows I was kept out of.

As much as I love complaining, I’m in no position to trash the scenesters who make CMJ and every other conference more about trends than grooves. I enjoy shallow schmoozing and club hopping just as much as any fad monger or thick dick swinging executive. Now please excuse me – I have to write some thank you notes so I can get into the right parties next year.

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