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CMJ 2012: Discoveries Day One

Ben Gibbard performs at The HiFi Bar in New York City's Lower East Side during the CMJ Music Marathon. i i

Ben Gibbard performs at The HiFi Bar in New York City's Lower East Side during the CMJ Music Marathon. Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR
Ben Gibbard performs at The HiFi Bar in New York City's Lower East Side during the CMJ Music Marathon.

Ben Gibbard performs at The HiFi Bar in New York City's Lower East Side during the CMJ Music Marathon.

Bob Boilen/NPR

The CMJ Music Marathon lasts five days and scatters nearly a thousand bands around NYC, primarily the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. Each year, I go there to find promising new bands. Past discoveries have become some of my favorite artists — The xx, Patrick Watson, Caveman and First Aid Kit, to name a few.

My CMJ 2012 is just getting started. I went out last night and saw nine acts, but a few stood out. (You can follow along with more complete coverage on Twitter @allsongs and Instagram @tinydesk.)


Easily the best music of my night happened in a mostly empty room. The band is Brainstorm from Portland, Ore. They're a trio with a fierce and gritty African-style guitar and melody at its center.

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I don't often go to see folks I've seen before at these sorts of festivals and I never go to big named shows, since they'll come to my hometown eventually. I made an exception for Ben Gibbard. The singer and songwriter of Death Cab for Cutie played a solo show for his new solo album, Former Lives, which also came out yesterday on Barsuk Records, which put out Death Cab's early albums. The rather intimate setting was a club in the East Village called The HiFi Bar that used to be called Brownies. These songs are intimate and translate well to a small space. Ben Gibbard also has some history here.

"I started out playing at Brownies and on Barsuk Records, now here I am again at Brownies and on Barsuk Records," he said. "What the f—- happened?"


Of the bands I saw my first night, the loudest and most passionate were The Orwells. I don't think anyone in this band is old enough to vote — maybe just old enough to drive in some states. They're from Elmhurst, Ill and they are a perfect basement/garage/messy rock band.

One final note: I love the people I meet at this festival — music directors from college stations like Thor Slaughter from KWVA in Eugene, Ore. or bandmates I see walking the streets together. I love the anticipation that happens walking into a club for a band I've never seen. But the moment that put the biggest smile on this Brooklyn boy's face was seeing that my hotel was located right next to a Knishery. A nice way for a transplanted New Yorker to feel at home again.

Knishery: Lower East Side standby Yonah Schimmel.

Knishery: Lower East Side standby Yonah Schimmel. Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

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