Flung across a few hundred disparate bars, clubs and basements every October, over 1,000 bands from around the world descend on New York City for CMJ, the five-day music-industry and media conference that condenses and intensifies the city's usual atmosphere of convergence and discovery.
New York itself is too titanic to register the buzz of underground activity at a surface level— most non-music-obsessives here can make it through the week without so much as a deviation from their daily commute. But the acts vying for attention at showcases day and night, official and non, have often used the conference -- and its healthy draw of label executives, booking agents and publicists alike -- as a springboard to cultural resonance on a much larger scale. In just the past five years acts including but not limited to Passion Pit, Sleigh Bells, The xx, HAIM, Savages and Icona Pop all delivered pivotal early performances that presaged crossover success in the mainstream.
If there were any overarching narratives to this year's conference one was this: guitar bands are back, and in a big way. A glut of punk, noise-pop, and alternative bands ripped through many of the best showcases, perhaps signaling a pending tidal shift away from the synth and MacBook-enabled electronic music that has dominated the popular consciousness for at least the past few years.