A big trend this year at the CMJ Music Marathon was the presence (and marketing) of musicians from specific countries. The exhibitor hall had tables with information and music compilations from organizations promoting the music from different regions, including Ireland, Sweden, and Australia.
An ad in the CMJ Festival Guide also touted a list of all the French bands performing. In addition to that, there were a number of regional showcases throughout the festival, featuring bands from all over the world. Tuesday night there were events for bands hailing from New Zealand and Japan and on Wednesday night a number of European-themed showcases took place, including “Sounds of Spain,” “Bring on the Brits,” and “Canadian Blast.” Friday there was a daytime showcase of Australian bands at the club Arlene's Grocery. Additionally, there was a 6-hour "Swedish Music Seminar" on Thursday, October 23rd and a panel called "What's it Like Over There" on Thursday about music scenes in Brazil, Indonesia, Canada and Australia.
Being a fan of music from Japan, I ventured to the basement of the Knitting Factory (“Old Office”) on Tuesday night (Oct. 21) to check out the Japan showcase being sponsored by Hear Japan and Japan-based FabTone Records.
Local Sound Style at Knitting Factory Old Office October 21, 2008
The line-up of three bands represented a range of musical styles. First up was Local Sound Style, a group of young guys doing Western-inspired pop rock sung in English. Their homage to American rock and roll was so good that you would have sworn that the lead singer was from the U.S. He had the singing accent down pat, which was all the more unsettling when you heard his heavily accented speaking voice. They had a blast on stage and ended their set with some fun (but safe) rock star dramatics that included a somersault and a thrown microphone stand.
Ovum at Knitting Factory Old Office October 21, 2008
The second act, Ovum was my favorite. They played gorgeous instrumental music that was squarely in the Japanese instrumental psych category that I love. The music was both delicate and noisy, with nods to mesmerizers like My Bloody Valentine and Godspeed You Black Emperor. I even caught a hint of a metal guitar riff, but things never got super heavy.
Holidays of Seventeen at Knitting Factory Old Office October 21, 2008
The final band was Holidays of Seventeen, who were the most theatrical group of the bunch. They played glam-rock inspired tunes with English lyrics. The David Bowie influence was super prominent on “Hey Scissorman." The lead singer was happy and enthusiastic and was obviously thrilled to be playing the U.S. for the first time. He smiled as he said to the crowd, “This is the most exciting moment,” before announcing, “We are doing a pop song now” and launching into a ballad.