Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CMJ Wrapup: What Were the Highlights of CMJ 2009?

The five days of frenzy known as CMJ 2009 have ended in New York, and the music critics and bloggers are weighing in on what what notable about this year's indie rock fest.

(Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to any CMJ events this year. Oh well, sometimes the timing just doesn't work out.)

The New York Times says there was no one standout at this year's CMJ, as there was when R.E.M. and Arcade Fire made their names. But the paper gave a lot of ink to Florida's Surfer Blood, and also liked New York bands Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Antlers, among other bands.

Alisa Ali of The Alternate Side, the fine alt/indie channel of Fordham University's radio station WFUV, liked The Shackeltons as well as Drink Up Buttercup, Real Estate, Apache Beat, and Local Natives. Her article has videos from the latter two.

The latest edition of NPR Music's All Songs Considered features several live songs from CMJ, as well the entire show performed by Patrick Watson. Show host Bob Boilen raved about Watson, as I wrote on the Canadian music blog North by East West (, calling him "hands down the best performer all week. His band was stellar."

Fortunately, Patrick Watson's show was recorded and is now available as a free podcast download (it can also be streamed online). To download the concert, you may have to use iTunes or a similar program.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Believe," New Album by Australian Guitarist Orianthi, is Out; Get Her New Single Free

I've written before about the young guitarist Orianthi, who was to be part of Michael Jackson's "This Is It" tour. She's played with a lot of her guitar heroes, from Santana to Steve Vai, and after getting a lot of attention for her rehearsals with Jackson and her stint playing in Carrie Underwood's band on the Grammy Awards, Orianthi now has her own full-length album out.

Orianthi's "Believe"drops on October 27th and is available on CD and in digital format.

The 24-year-old Orianthi (full name: Orianthi Panagaris), who's been living in Los Angeles the last few years, is currently doing promotion for "Believe," and has been announcing the latest developments on her Twitter page. As of midnight on Oct. 26th the CD is ranked #165 on Amazon's music bestsellers list (for CDs), but that is sure to rise with some high-profile appearances, such as going on "Good Morning America" on Oct. 27th. She and her band will be going on tour soon to support "Believe."

Orianthi's first single from the album, "According to You," is free on iTunes as its single of the week starting on Tuesday, October 27th.

CNN Entertainment has a story on Orianthi in which she discusses working with Jackson on his tour.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 WFMU Record Fair - This Weekend!

As if you weren't already suffering from musical overload with the CMJ Music Marathon in full swing, this weekend is another annual Fall attraction for New York-area rock fans: the WFMU Record Fair.

Once again the "free-form station of the nation" in Jersey City will put on its extravaganza of vinyl (including LPs, 45s, and 12"s), CDs, DVDs, and even VHS tapes. There will also be special WFMU records on sale for a dollar, and a number of live music events as well.

The fair will be held at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 W. 18th St. (between 6th & 7th Avenues). One-day admission is $7, or you can buy an early-bird admission for $25 that gets you in a few hours early on Friday and allows you unlimited entry the entire weekend. And, of course, it gives you first crack at the merchandise, including rare and hard-to-find items.

If you're ready to take a break from the live music in the clubs for CMJ, head on over to the WFMU Record Fair and pick up some choice recordings to take home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 CMJ Music Marathon is Here: Prepare for Overload

Tomorrow begins the annual festival of wall-to-wall musical overload, otherwise known as the CMJ Music Marathon (though it includes film as well). From October 20th to 24th, dozens and dozens of bands from all over the world will descend upon NYC and environs to play gigs, and folks in the music biz will attend panels on subjects ranging from reimbursement in a digital world to the future of intellectual property.

For me, it's all about the music. You can find an alphabetical listing of all the CMJ bands here (though in a non-user-friendly format). Another option is to look at the showcases by day page or, to scan the massive a day-by-day listing of all CMJ showcase events at all venues.

To make it easier to manage all this, several pages on the CMJ Web site give you the opportunity to create your own custom schedule of events you want to attend.

A few of the better known (to me) acts include Au Revoir Simone, The Black Hollies, The Bongos, Clare and the Reasons, Dawn Landes, Deer Tick, The Fleshtones, Immaculate Machine, Japandroids, Ted Leo + The Pharmacists, and even Busta Rhymes (playing a gig at B.B. King's).

There's also an act called Dangerous, an "all-metal tribute to Michael Jackson." Not sure what to make of that one.

CMJ is offering a free 15-song sampler of songs from bands playing the marathon, and InSound is offering its own 15-song free music sampler as well.

Rest up tonight, for tomorrow the CMJ extravaganza begins!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hear the Entire Michael Jackson Single "This Is It" Streaming Online

The new album by the late Michael Jackson won't be coming out until near the end of this month, but the unreleased single of the title song, "This Is It," is now streaming online at the singer's Web site. The streaming began at Midnight Eastern time, Monday, October 12th.

The album "This Is It" will be released October 26th and 27th (except for the vinyl version, which hits stores on November 10th). The movie based on rehearsals for the "This Is It" tour will hit theaters on October 28th. (You can find show times and dates and reserve tickets to see the movie by visiting The film is scheduled to run for two weeks only.

Jackson's Web site says that the album is the companion piece to the film and that it includes "the music that inspired the film, demo recordings, and two versions of the previously unreleased song, 'This Is It.'"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New York's WQXR Radio Changes Owners, and Frequencies, Starting Today

WQXR, the classical radio station that's been a fixture on the New York City airwaves for decades, has changed owners and, as of 8 p.m. tonight, has changed frequencies.

The station, which was long owned by the New York Times, was acquired in a three-way deal in which pubic radio station WNYC acquired WQXR. WQXR can now be found at 105.9 FM... the former frequency of Spanish-language station WCAA-FM, which is owned by Univision (the third party in the transaction). WCAA swaps frequencies with WQXR, and is now broadcasting at 96.3 FM. A blend of classical music meant to appeal to younger listeners can be found on an online stream called "Q2," according to an article in the Times.

On thing that's not changing is the station's format: it will still be devoted to airing classical music.

WNYC bought WQXR for $33.5 million. Laura Walker, WNYC's president and CEO, explained the transaction in a letter on its Web site. WNYC also has a set of frequently asked questions on the WQXR acquisition.

WQXR is an all-classical station that survived in a rough market that's seen many stations change hands and program formats. Unlike those stations, WQXR was being sold not because of lack of interest in its classical format but because of the continuing financial problems of its owner, the New York Times. (WQXR's slogan was, "The radio station of the New York Times." Which used to be radio stations, in a time in the past when WQXR had both an AM and an FM frequency playing classical music.)

WNYC now has three stations. WNYC AM (news and talk) will probably see few if any changes. WNYC FM, which plays classical and other music but has been featuring more news and talk over the years, will probably more even more in that direction as some of its classical programs and hosts move to WQXR.

I've enjoyed listening to WQXR off and on for more than 30 years, so I'm glad to see it still around, and still playing classical music. The new WQXR can be found at 105.9 FM in the New York metro area and at

Having just become a public radio station, WQXR is already taking part in a longstanding tradition of that genre: the pledge drive (naturally, they've got to pay off that $33.5 million somehow).

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Brings the "Wrecking Ball" to Giants Stadium

darkness  on the edge of town
Bruce Springsteen just turned 60, but he's still running rings around performers half his age. I saw the Friday show at Giants Stadium from Springsteen and the E Street Band, the second of their five-night run of shows to close out that venue. And not only did they play another of their famous three-hour shows, they didn't even take an intermission.

Springsteen is doing something new on this tour: playing an album in its entirety. Friday's was one of my favorites: 1978's "Darkness on the Edge of Town." (Other albums performed have included "Born to Run" and "Born in the U.S.A.")

The show began with six tunes before "Darkness," starting with "Wrecking Ball," a new song Springsteen penned specifically about the end of Giants Stadium. After that first group of songs he performed "Darkness on the Edge of Town," from "Badlands" to the title song. (For a song-by-song chronicle of the show, Jay Lustig's in-depth review from the Newark Star-Ledger and Stan Goldstein's review from

I expected a brief post-"Darkness" set of tunes, but Springsteen delivered a longer group of songs, many of them requests from signs held up by audience members. He ended the show with one of his oldest songs, "Rosalita," from his second album (one of the few songs from that set to be performed live regularly). It's one of his most rousing tunes, and he's used it to close a show many a time.

So Springsteen will outlast Giants Stadium, but that isn't the only venue in his home base of NJ and New York City that he's outlived: he played several shows at the now-defunct Shea Stadium in Queens a few years back. The Boss also was the first musical act to play what's now called the Izod Center (the arena next to Giants Stadium), which is on its last legs but will be around at least until the NJ Nets get their new home in Brooklyn built. I was fortunate enough to see one of those shows back in 1981.

This was a very satisfying show from The Boss and the E Street Band, and although I've never seen them give a bad show, they seem extra motivated to give Giant's Stadium a rousing sendoff. There are two more shows at "the old girl," as Springsteen called the Stadium, on Oct. 8th and 9th, and if you'll be in the NY/NJ area, you might want to go. You're in for a real treat if you do. (I'm not sure if the shows are officially sold out, but even if they are there are usually quite a few people outside the gates trying to sell extra tickets.)