CMJ Diary Day 2: Sleep Deprivation, Dollar Pizza, and Bonding

If you missed the recap of our adventures on the first day of CMJ, read it here

Dear Diary (or, the readers of Rock On Philly),

Around 7 PM on my second day of CMJ – one of the most exhausting days I can remember in my recent past – I sat on a stoop in Alphabet City and made a phone call to my roommate Levi.

“I kind of feel like today is the most emotionally confusing day of my life,” I told him.

I may have exaggerated a bit. But let me ask you this: have you ever panic-cried in front of the president of one of your favorite record labels? Because I have. But, we’ll get to that part of the story later.

I never sleep well in unfamiliar spaces, so I woke up after only three hours of sleep with a killer caffeine-withdrawal headache. After drinking as much coffee as my body could handle, I walked down to Ludlow Street for the first time – the Ludlow Street that Julian Casablancas writes about. I may or may not have Snapchat-ed it.

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Wildhoney performs at Pianos (CMJ 2015)

The first band I saw on Wednesday was Wildhoney, a Baltimore-based psychedelic, guitar-driven pop group. It took me the entire set to push my way to the front row to photograph, and it was worth it – this band has the kind of energy that photographers dream about and concert-goers love.

Afterward, I went outside to meet up with Diet Cig, a self-proclaimed “slop pop” band from New Paltz, NY, and their publicist Jessi for an interview and portrait session.

Music writers and publicists constantly email back and forth to set up interviews, show coverage, album reviews, and basically anything that involves press about a band. But, since most music PR companies are based in New York, I rarely get to meet the people that I work with. Now that I was in the city, all of my email buddies were at CMJ too, and I had the chance to finally put faces to the names that flood my inbox with music news.

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Cake Shop, CMJ 2015

Jessi, Alex Luciano (Diet Cig’s vocalist and guitarist), and I stood outside of Cake Shop waiting for Noah Bowman (Diet Cig’s drummer) to park the car, a recurring challenge in NYC. Of course, this took longer than expected so, in the meantime, Jessi, Alex, and I caught up about our CMJ experience. We ran into Noah, a publicist who I work with regularly, but had never met (we ended up deciding to start a band of people on the non-musical side of the music industry – just warning you, watch out for our mixtape). Then, Robb, the president and owner of Saddle Creek Records showed up. As a longtime fan of Saddle Creek, I knew exactly who he was as soon as he introduced himself. But, I played it cool. Sort of. I think.

This was one of the moments at CMJ that inspired me the most – so many people from so many corners of the music industry just happened to run into each other on one sidewalk slab on Ludlow Street, somehow linked by a mutual passion for the bands we love. There’s nothing more invigorating than discussing what you love most with people who love it just as much as you do, and CMJ thrives off of those interactions.

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Diet Cig at CMJ 2015

In the midst of our impromptu, mass meet-and-greet, Noah Bowman finally parked his car, and I left with Diet Cig to take portraits. Taking pictures of Alex and Noah felt the same as photographing my friends in Philly – they were energetic and silly, resulting in some pretty funny portraits.

“I feel the adrenaline!” Alex said, jumping up and down while I photographed her and Noah. Though I was focused on taking good portraits, I felt the adrenaline, too – I realized for the millionth time how lucky I am to be able to hang out with bands I love, and then write about it so that I can share the love with the masses.

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Diet Cig at CMJ 2015

Before we went inside to see Palehound, A Bad Thing happened, and the good adrenaline became bad adrenaline. Between my sleep-deprivation and my emotional overdrive from meeting so many great people in the span of twenty minutes, the Bad Thing made me irrationally cry (spontaneous crying is a talent of mine). As soon as I felt myself crying, I felt stupid about crying. Thankfully, I pulled myself together. I decided I’d deal with the Bad Thing later, when I wasn’t at CMJ having an incredible week.

After quelling my sleep-deprived emotions, I went with Diet Cig to grab dollar pizza. Like the chronic over-sharer I am, I confided in Alex and Noah about The Bad Thing That Happened. Funnily enough, the same Bad Thing had happened to Alex recently, so she could relate. It made me feel a bit better.

Still feeling a bit shaken up, I then met up with Dan, the manager of Good Morning, a chill, garage-acoustic band who came to CMJ all the way from Australia. Dan and I had some time to chat, since Liam Parsons and Stefan Blair from the band were trying to park – a reoccurring theme.

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Ludlow Street

“This might take a while – they’re probably stoned,” Dan confided.

“Don’t worry, I won’t write that,” I said, laughing.

“No, actually, you should! I want you to! Write honestly!” he told. So, here I am, writing honestly.

Dan and I talked until we no longer felt like strangers. Once I realized that Dan is a pretty chill dude and not an intimidating band manager, I decided to open up to him.

“Honestly, I’m sort of feeling out of it because I haven’t slept in days and [insert Bad Thing here] happened, so this interview might be a little iffy,” I told him.

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Good Morning at CMJ 2015

At CMJ, I consistently struggled to figure out how to act in front of the people I met. I want to be taken seriously, but I don’t want to hide who I am, and the whole networking/business card exchanging/schmoozing thing isn’t easy for me. I don’t want to be a stoic robot with no personality in order to be more “professional,” but I also know that I have to have boundaries.

Maybe professionalism is best dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But in this case, when the band I was interviewing had already alluded to their drug use, I figured that I could loosen my boundaries a little.

I decided to just hang out with Dan, Liam, and Stefan like they were friends. Maybe that’s how music journalism is supposed to be done. I’ve never had an interview end up turning into a hang out sesh in the East Village with dollar pizza (Diet Cig and Good Morning were on the same page that day, it seems), but I learned more about Good Morning this way than if I sat down, asked them some questions for twenty minutes, and left. I kept thinking to myself whether this was appropriate or not, but then I realized that it didn’t matter. If I want to write honest profiles of bands, isn’t the best way to get to know someone to just hang out with them like normal people, and not like an interviewer and interviewee?

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Georgia at Le Possion Rouge, CMJ 2015

Once Good Morning left to meet up with some friends, I started walking towards Le Possion Rouge for NPR Music’s CMJ Showcase. In a sudden moment of exhaustion, I sat down on a set of steps across the street and called my roommate Levi.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“I think I cried in front of the president of Saddle Creek records and I don’t know why. I’m just really physically and emotionally exhausted.”

“That’s rough.”

“Yeah, kind of.”

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Palehound, CMJ 2015

When I arrived at Le Poisson Rouge, I met up with Vicki, Palehound’s manager, who brought me to meet Ellen Kemper, the incredible musician behind Palehound.

“I don’t need to do anything until my set, so we basically have all of the time in the world,” Ellen said.

Since we weren’t rushed, Ellen and I chatted before our interview and got to know each other a little bit. Like the members Diet Cig and Good Morning, I felt a quick connection with Ellen. When she mentioned the show that she played earlier that day, I told her that I was dying to go, but had to miss it because I had to deal with A Bad Thing That Happened.

“No way!” Ellen said. “The same thing happened to me last year!”

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Palehound at CMJ 2015

After we commiserated a bit, we did our interview and I took my portraits. Feeling much less clouded by The Bad Thing, I met up with Chris, a new friend and travel writer I had met the night before.

The NPRxCMJ showcase was downright impressive. I hadn’t listened to Monika and Georgia before, the acts who played before Palehound, but they each commanded the audience’s attention in their own way; Monika danced in the crowd, and Georgia showcased a rare band set-up, playing drums/percussion and singing lead vocals at the same time.

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Monika at Le Possion Rouge, CMJ 2015

I ended my night by watching Ellen shred on stage, performing songs from Palehound’s debut album Dry Food, which I’ve been listening to on repeat for weeks. I ran into Noah again (my email BFF), who does publicity for Palehound. After Palehound’s set, he clapped like a proud parent.

“I’ve wanted you to see her play live – she’s incredible,” Noah said. “She’s so, so, so sweet, too.”

I agreed on both accounts.

My second day at CMJ was spiked with emotional ups and downs. But at the end of the day, when you climb into bed with your ears ringing from a full day of music, it’s hard not to feel some semblance of peace.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: CMJ Diary Day 1: New Friends, New Music, and Getting Lost in Brooklyn - Rock On Philly

  2. Bryana Natale

    October 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Amanda, this is amazing. Keep being you, girl. Sounds like you’re doing a great job.

    Ps- I want to be part of your mixtape and spontaneously crying happens on the regular for me…soul sister?

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