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CMJ 2013: 10 Can't Miss Acts And Panels

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Pusha T performs onstage during day 2 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2013 in Indio, California.

The CMJ Music Marathon can be great for discovering that hot new buzz act with the most preposterous name so you can joke about it with your friends. And yeah, there's a lot of great, you know, music, to be seen across New York City from Oct. 15 to 20. There's also an awful lot of acts -- a few well-known (Pusha T, Dismemberment Plan, Savages), many much less well known, some unknown  -- to sift through in this loose festival's expansive lineup. There will be sudden time changes, super late night sets, and showcases so crowded from the get-go that even those with badges won't have a hope of getting in. Our advice is to plan ahead, get there early, and look into these ten can't miss acts and expert panels from CMJ 2013.


After growing tired of years of living in California, Glasser's Cameron Mesirow moved to New York, where the city's majestic skyscrapers inspired the music of her sophomore album "Interiors," released Oct. 8 on True Panther. In an interview for Pop Shop last month, she explained, "Each floor could be for totally different purpose, and how the whole building itself conceals its purpose," relating the structures to outer and inner meaning of her music. She's intellectual, sure, but also honest. "I love singing live; that's my favorite feeling in the world," she told Billboard.  Catch her playing songs like "Design" (video above), from her new sophomore effort "Interiors," released earlier this month.

Catch her: Oct. 15: Music Hall of Williamsburg at 10:30 PM


With alternative radio taking on a highly pop-friendly sound these days, Columbia Records' HAERTS are an alternative pop act to keep a close eye on.  They've only released a handful of songs so far, but what we have heard -- cuts like "Hemiplegia," "All the Days," and "Wings" (check it out above) -- all check into "damn good" territory. They've got glistening, entrancing hooks that seems to have descended from synthpop heaven and absolutely blissful hi-fi production from St. Lucia's Jean-Philip Grobler. To see if they can capture the magic in a live setting, check out one of their two sure-to-be-popular CMJ dates.

Catch them: Oct. 17: Santos Party House at 11 PM; Oct. 18: Judson Memorial Church at 10 PM; Oct. 19: Bowery Ballroom at 11 PM

Riff Raff

Sure he's got one of hip-hop's greatest Twitter feeds, but at some point you've got to venture out and catch the inspiration for James Franco's drug dealin' rapper character in "Spring Breakers" live. Jody Highroller has upped his live game since signing to Diplo's Mad Decent imprint, though at the same time, you never quite know what you're getting into with this cat.

Catch him: Oct. 18: Irving Plaza at 7 PM

Pusha T

If you were missing the realness in hip-hop in 2013, look no further from King Push's solo debut "My Name Is My Name," styled under the watchful eye of Kanye West and featuring some of Pusha T's hungriest, grittiest rapping since the Clipse went on hiatus. "I don't think anyone makes street-driven hip-hop like me," Pusha said in his recent Billboard video Q&A. "Hip-hop is like smooth jazz to me and I'm here to change that." Check out Pusha live for the best verses from cuts like "Numbers on the Board" and "Nosetalgia," as well as -- hopefully -- some classic Clipse material.

Catch him: Oct. 16: Le Poisson Rouge at 9 PM

Panel: The Rise of Urban Alternative
Over a decade ago, we had the debate of mainstream rap versus backpack rap. Oh, how the times have changed. Since then, hip-hop and R&B have splintered off into countless subgenres, often with internet-friendly titles like PBR&B. Here, panelists will discuss how the success of artists like Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, and Miguel is changing the traditional face of rap, hip-hop and R&B.

Catch it: Oct. 17: NYU Kimmel Center Room 406 at 12:30 PM

Betty Who

New York-by-way-of-Sydney, Australia's Betty Who is a budding pop star whom Billboard has had its watchful eye on since premiering her debut EP "The Movement."  Then last month, her career took the next big leap when her song "Somebody Loves You" soundtracked a flashmob-inflected Home Depot wedding proposal video that went viral and garnered over 9 million views in its first week (watch above). Betty Who signed shortly to RCA Records thereafter. Check her out at CMJ to get a closer look at what she's got in store.  

Catch her: Oct. 16: Pianos at 10:15 PM

Speedy Ortiz

Punk kids are already familiar with Speedy Ortiz, as their debut LP "Major Arcana" brought them a good deal of acclaim outside of their home base of Amherst, MA home base. CMJ is a great time for a larger indie rock crowd to connect with the band, and they can catch them at a pair of CMJ dates. The singer, Sadie Dupuis, has interned for Spin, worked in a record store, and is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry. It all comes together on tracks like "Taylor Swift," where she sings, "I got a boy in a hardcore band, I got a boy likes to f*ck to Can."

Catch them: Oct. 18: Panache at 12:30 AM; Oct. 19: The Silent Barn, time TBA

Joanna Gruesome

CMJ is well known for its assortment of curiously and just plain absurdly-titled bands (Billboard examined 5 of the most outrageous cases last year). But Joanna Gruesome (a play on the name of Andy Samberg's harp-playing newylwed wife) stand up to the music test. Like Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Veronica Falls before them, Joanna Gruesome rep the classic sound of their label, Washington, DC-based Slumberland Records, by cramming catchy hooks into giddy noise pop songs. Even if you're not up on the backstory, come for the goofy name, stay for the great songs.

Catch them: Oct. 15: Baby's All Riight, time TBA; Oct. 16: Pianos at 3:30 PM; Oct. 16: Pianos at 7:45 PM; Oct. 17: Cakeshop at midnight; Oct. 18: Shea Stadium  at 9:00 PM; Oct. 18: 285 Kent at 11:15 PM; Oct. 19: The Rock Shop, time TBA; Oct. 19: Death By Audio, time TBA

Panel: "EDM: The Last Dance?"
Okay, so it's not exactly a revelation that dance music and its culture are huge right now, and that probably isn't going to change anytime soon. But Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" brought a late 70s-inspired, analog approach to EDM and scored some massive hits in the process. Daft’s Thomas Bangalter even said today's EDM producers are "missing the tools" in a Billboard interview this year. What gives? In this panel, artists, label personnel, and media experts will tackle the question of what's ahead for EDM.

Catch it: Oct. 15: NYU Kimmel Center Room 905/907 at 2 PM

Vanessa Carlton

Just to prove that CMJ isn't all newbies and buzz acts, here's one that should appeal to all those who were ever touches by immaculate piano rock tunes like "Ordinary Day" and "A Thousand Miles."

Catch her: Oct. 15: The Highline Ballroom at 8 PM