Each year around this time, the folks at the College Music Journal host an enormous film, art and music marathon that takes over venues in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. You may know the thing as CMJ: five days of music and shows, drinks and swag, all-nighters with like-minded fans… it’s awesome in almost every way. Except, to do it right, you need a badge—a $100 to $500 free pass that gets you into venue after venue all day and night, for the better part of a week. Sure, you can buy a ticket to this, a ticket to that and get a slice. But if you want to take it all in and you don’t have the hundreds to drop, you’re basically sh*t out of luck and already hoping for next year. Or… you could just read on. Because CMJ is, in fact, chock-full of very free great stuff happening ALL WEEK LONG. You just have to know where to look.
Having done CMJ in the past with a press pass, I decided to tackle this year in the rough, sans badge, with all the same enthusiasm and none of the same work requirements. Here’s a day-by-day of what’s free and my tips for working the festival. Venues are in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Tuesday, Oct. 19 and Wednesday, Oct. 20
On Tuesday, MOG sponsors a Yo La Tengo and Screaming Females CMJ opening night show at Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg). Doors are at 6 p.m., show’s at 8—get there early! Welcome Wednesday with a Terrorbird day party starting at noon at the Cake Shop (152 Ludlow St., L.E.S.) with Baths, Marnie Stern, and many others. Check out some off-the-grid noise bands like Adult Themes and Montreal’s No Joy (one of Best Coast’s faves) at the Crikey Records’ unofficial CMJ party at Shea Stadium (20 Meadow St., Bushwick). There’ll be some free beer and awesome art, doors at 8:30.
Thursday, Oct. 21
There are three badgeless events happening on Thursday, the first of which is the 6 p.m. Medium Rotation mixer at Solas (232 E. 9th St., East Village). This event takes place immediately following the CMJ awards ceremony and will be very radio-centric: DJ sets galore and a great place to score some swag and possibly a beer. After the mixer and a show of your own finding, you can head to Stanton Public at 10 p.m. (17 Stanton St., L.E.S.) for the Beggars Group/Sub Pop party where you will find free drinks and serious prize packs. Once you’ve had your fill of Manhattan, crawl east to Legion Bar (790 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg) for “THE BEST PARTY EVER” hosted by Domino and Mute Records. Staff from both labels will be DJing from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and giving away tons of vinyl.
Friday, Oct. 22
It’s called a marathon for a reason, so don’t sleep-in quite yet—Friday at noon ye must brave the raucous East River waters for Pirate! Island 2010 at Fontana’s (105 Eldridge St., L.E.S.). Join Pirate! for beverages and giveaways, plus live music by everyone from Devotchka to Deluka. Afterward head to Brooklyn to the Knitting Factory between 2 and 6 p.m. (361 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg) for Distiller Promo’s CMJ Party, featuring Cotton Jones (among others) and some more free drinks.
Saturday, Oct. 23
Saturday is best because you can round out your CMJ 2010 with two parties BOTH in Brooklyn, plus your friends with day jobs don’t have to feel left-out. We are happy to announce AAM’s party at the Knitting Factory beginning at noon, where you will be assaulted with free vegan hot dogs, drinks, prizes and performances by Francis and the Lights, Ty Segall and Crocodiles. RSVP is required. After 2 p.m., stroll down Metropolitan Ave. to Barcade (388 Union Ave., Williamsburg) for Team Clermont’s refreshing take on CMJ: all the music, swag and drinks, but you can dump Ms. Buzzband for Ms. Pacman.
Now that you know what’s going on, here’s how to grab CMJ by the headphones:
Keep an eye out for swag. CMJ is sponsored by many a magazine, food/beverage company and record label. What this means is that you can easily pick up October and November issues of every single magazine you wish you subscribed to (no joke—I’ve done this); You can down several complimentary Amps or Izzes per day; and you can pick up CD samplers and download cards from many a favorite record labels (hell yes). You’ll also get enough free canvas totes to supply your entire building with groceries.
Use the powers of the Internet. Part of the fun of the CMJ Music Marathon is the city-wide scavenger hunt it turns into. What are we scavenging? Free show + open bar. The ol’ one-two punch. Almost all of these events are public, but you have to discover them somehow: Stalk BrooklynVegan for updates; Follow twitter accounts of record labels (@subpop), concert venues (@knittingfactory) and music promo companies (@piratepirate). Then search Facebook events for things like “CMJ” “unofficial CMJ” “CMJ day party,” etc. In the past, magazines like VICE and Fader have announced last minute stuff too.
Bring your business card. Even if you’re not a band photographer or a radio DJ, CMJ is a huge networking opportunity for any and all creative professionals. From graphic designers to post production buffs, you’ll find a niche.
Look for extra freebies. Even if it’s not explicitly stated, there’s a strong possibility of freebies that extend beyond the seven bands you’re seeing at a warehouse on Morgan Ave. For example, last year I was pleased with a last-minute discovery that Terrorbird hosted a one-hour open bar with free cupcakes at the Cake Shop. There’s almost always free beer, magazines, goody bags, t-shirts and records to be found at these daytime parties.
Be tactful. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Supplies are obviously limited, so do NOT throw a fit if you didn’t get that third complimentary Dogfish Head brew you were expecting. Plan to tread upon the most specific niches of college radio and prepare yourself for music nerds, mostly DJs. Loud, drunk DJs.
*As always, when it comes to free shows… double check age restrictions and RSVP requirements.