WSBU’s Assistant Music Director, Justin Peterson tells us about his experience at CMJ Music Marathon.

The CMJ Music Marathon was exactly that—a marathon. I’ve been to New York City before, but I’ve never done as many things in the city as I did the five days Matt, Kirk and I sojourned from bar to bar, looking for a musician or band that caught our attention. We saw some incredible acts, and were pleasantly surprised by some that we stumbled upon. Some bands even reminded me about how much I loved them in the first place, their live performances so impressive that they’ve been on repeat ever since we left the city.

Our first day I think we saw maybe fifteen different acts from noon to two in the morning. It was by far the longest day, but also one of my favorites. Car Seat Headrest put on the first true great show of our trip, their angst building to an epic climax that left all three of us in awe. Their new album is out on the 30th of October, and I couldn’t be more excited that they have signed to Matador and will continue to record some awesome stuff.

Probably one of my favorite moments of the trip was during a lull in our day. Kirk, Matt and I were sitting at a table preparing ourselves for the next act, and thinking about whether or not we should go someplace else for cheap nachos (the phrase “balling on a budget” was probably said more than anything else throughout the week). Suddenly the bar we were at played a song by the Alabama Shakes, and I asked Matt and Kirk how they sounded live when they saw them that summer at Bonnaroo. In the middle of explaining how great the lead singer was, Matt’s eyes lit up and just he said: “There she is!” It was the front woman of the Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard. He had spotted her poking her head into the bar. It was an amazing coincidence, and even thought we didn’t get to meet her, we got to see her side project, Thunderbitch, play at the same place.

Of the main acts that we saw during CMJ’s, all of them impressed. Neon Indian, fresh off of his latest album, brought out the funk and disco at Williamsburg Music Hall, and the whole place erupted into a 70’s dance party. Titus Andronicus, one of the first indie bands I ever listened to, but on such a rowdy performance I almost wanted to jump into a mosh pit like I was in eighth grade at Warped Tour again. We saw Protomartyr twice, and even though Kirk fell asleep during the second show, all three of us fell in love with them.

But nobody the entire week impressed me as much as pianist Tobias Jesso Jr. The young goon played after Wet. and put on one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. He was completely, utterly hammered, and messed with his backing band Duk (who were equally awesome) between every song. His inebriation didn’t take away from his musicianship, every song he played sounded just like he sounds on his album. It was the peak of the trip, and it solidified my love for a musician that I didn’t fully appreciate until seeing him live.

Justin Peterson

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