CMJ Music Marathon is upon us. Let’s talk about it, shall we? The long-running music conference and showcasepalooza takes place in New York City and its boroughs, October 21-25. It’s not easy to span the city in time to catch all the acts performing, but damn it if it isn’t fun to try.
This year will see the return of the Outlaw Roadshow, put on by Counting Crows‘ Adam Duritz in conjunction with the Ryan’s Smashing Life blog. The traveling showcase – no badges required! – has been a popular feature of the big fests from Austin to NY and features some of the best underground music in the country. If you hit this one, you’ll catch sets from our friends Mean Creek and Air Traffic Controller, as well as Hallelujah The Hills, Christian McNeil & Sea Monsters, Corin Ashley (occasionally of The Pills), and many more.
Here are a few more to check out:
We’ll have some more recommendations to come, no doubt.
We told you about The Figgs a few months ago in our Artist of the Week feature. And just last week, we tipped you off on a solo record and upcoming tour from singer/bassist Pete Donnelly. Now you can hear the guys – Donnelly, Mike Gent, and Pete Hayes – being interviewed by Marc Maron on his great WTF podcast. Maron is a longtime fan of the band, who have now been together for 26 years, and just got some big exposure over the summer when their song was featured in a Lexus ad. Check out the podcast here.
Former Dr. Dog drummer Juston Stens and his band, The Get Real Gang, along with current Figgs bassist and songwriter Pete Donnelly (and his band, The Wise Easy) have announced a tour of the Southeastern US this month.
The two Philadelphia musicians, both best-known for their long-running bands, are both supporting new albums. Stens’ Share The Road features songs co-written with friends as he made a cross-country motorcycle trip, after leaving Dr. Dog. These friends include members of Wilco, Spoon, and Giant Cloud, as well as a couple of his former Dr. Dog bandmates.
Donnelly released Face The Bird this past summer and has been touring solo, off-and-on, ever since. The album features a collaboration with Shelby Lynne and takes The Figgs’ guitar-pop in an eclectic new direction.
The tour kicks off November 13th. See the full list of dates after the jump.
As champions of new music discovery, we often feature neophyte artists in this slot; artists just starting their careers, making new, intense, and immediate music of all kinds. Artists with serious longevity are harder to come by. Bands that stay together for a long time often lose that spark, even when the material remains good.
Then there’s The Figgs, who just celebrated their 25th year together (they formed as teens in Saratoga Springs, NY), and who are still making vibrant, creative, and constantly evolving pop music that transcends time and age, putting many a young, hyped-up indie band to shame.
Having recently released The Figgs Anthology: 1000 People Grinning, the band can look back at a career that includes 12 studio albums, two live albums, several EPs and singles, and a slew of side projects (members have played with Soul Asylum, NRBQ, and Tommy Stinson, and the group has had a long-running stint as Graham Parker‘s backing band). Remarkably, the last few records the band has released have been their best. Where other bands become complacent in time, The Figgs have become a lean, confident, powerful unit, taking creative risks to achieve frequent moments of pop perfection. Their sound is clean and simple, but not unadorned. The lyrics are entertaining, insightful, funny, ironic, self-referential. They are indeed known as a pop band, because the songs are most often quick and to the point, but few bands playing live today rock as hard. Most importantly, they know the groove intimately – feeling it is obviously priority one for The Figgs. And that is timeless.
They are not a new band, but you might not know them. So we invite you to discover The Figgs.
Oh, the side project. So often a bad idea, a vanity project, intended to display another side of an artist who really only has one good side. But other times, we get to see the output of great artists and performers who escape the confines of the project for which they are best-known. And if you’re a fan of that primary project, it’s always interesting to see what else the artist is driven or inspired to do, and whether you like the side project more or less. This list focuses on artists that could all be described as indie rock (depending on how strictly you define that term, I guess). The side project may or may not have evolved into a main project, but it has to have been formed secondarily to another band or ‘career’ while that career was still ongoing. This is my decree, let it be so…
10. The Gentlemen
Members of frequent tour-mates The Figgs and The Gravel Pit got together for this riff-heavy and rootsy rock band whose debut album, Ladies And Gentlemen, is a blistering good time.
9. She & Him
M. Ward was primarily a well-respected solo artist before hooking up with actress and singer Zooey Deschanel and launching She & Him, for which they both write the music. It’s simply delightful, classic pop.