EVA SAYS: I wake up hung over from too much whiskey-in-a-water-bottle the previous night at Making Time. I roll over, aching, with the faint memory that I’m supposed to do something important today. Oh yeah — I’m supposed to be on a bus to New York City for the CMJ festival. It’s my first assignment like this and I feel like I’m Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous. Only, I’m 22 and not 16, this is CMJ and not an Allman Brothers tour, and it’s 2006, not 1976. Still, I’m nervous, excited and overall quite confused as to why Valania would entrust me with an assignment like this.
(Oh, you’ll see, Ed.)
1:00pm: I bust a move over to the Chinatown bus and make it just in time to catch the next ride. So does the guy next to me, dressed in a heavy puffy black jacket and even heavier cheap cologne. I step on the bus to buy a ticket. So does he. “There’s one more seat left,” says the woman selling tickets. I pull out some cash. So does he. I plead with him, giving him my story about needing to catch some panel discussion with Amy Phillips and Maura Johnston at 3:30. He doesn’t give a shit about Amy Phillips and Maura Johnston, he says. Neither does the bus driver, who’s now yelling at the both of us to get off the bus. I step out thinking we’re going to discuss this further, away from the glare of impatient eyes. But he doesn’t follow me out and instead the bus leaves without me. I can’t help but wonder if I had said it was a panel discussion with Nick Sylvester things would have worked out differently.
4:30pm: I get to the Lincoln Center where I need to pick up my press pass. I’m too late for the panel discussion and off to a great start. When I finally find someone who can help, he sleepily informs me that I’m too late. I know I’m late for the panels, I tell him. I just want to pick up my pass. “What I mean is it’s too late to pick up a pass. Offices closed 30 minutes ago,” she says.
Looking at the panicked, frozen expression on my face, he turns sympathetic and goes off the find some help. In my frenzied state, I look for consolation from three indie looking kids next to me. Turns out, they’re late too. But even worse, they are scheduled to play a show at the Crash Mansion. It turns outs I’m standing amidst The Young Professionals, a band my friend asked me to go see the previous night at The Fire in Philly. They look much calmer than I feel. I attribute it to their rock star coolness.
And lucky for me, because the lady who comes back with passes makes it very clear that had the band not been late too, my sorry ass would be grass. She hands out used passes with other people’s name on them. It’s all good with me. I’m just happy to receive my first very own CMJ Media pass. Even if it does say my name is Melisa Zuccerman.
5:30pm: To kill time before the first show, I dip into some ghettojam store to try on things I won’t buy. I get a call from good friend David. His voice is low and ominous which warns me that he’s got some bad news. One of my best friends took a martini induced stumble down two flights of stairs the night before and is now in the ER due to severe head injury. He also mentions wanting to have an intervention for her drinking problem, but I can’t discuss it with him clearly over the sound of 50 Cent saying something about “hoes on the grind” and “niggas on his cheddar.”
In the wake of such heavy news (that my friend is in the ER, not that Fiddy’s got “niggas on his cheddar”), my sense of adventure dwindles and I walk around aimlessly to kill time. A man says something about a prostitute. I can’t tell whether he’s asking me if I am one, or if I want one. Either way, I tell him no thanks. The thought of seeing a show now seems difficult and phony. But I tell myself that if there’s anything that’s going to keep me from freaking out alone in NYC, it’s music.
7:00pm: The lineup for the last day of CMJ is decidedly shitty. Though, there are a few highlights, including The Clipse, The Secret Machines, Saul Williams, The French Kicks, and Cody ChestnuTT (pictured, left), my first stop of the night. I miraculously find my way to The Canal Room, and when I get there, a full hour early, the line is already wrapped around the corner. The crowd is definitely a hip mix of indie, afro-centric types. “This show is gonna be fire,” I hear a fine black man with dreadlocks say behind me. If he’s excited about it, I should be too.
By the time I get in, I need a beer. Bad. But then I remember I’m in a New York. They don’t have Lager and Red Stripe is 9$. I lament over how I could buy four shots of Jameson at McGlinchey’s with that money. The banner on stage reads “Afro Punk” — which really pinpoints the scene. Playing in the background is a Missy Elliott mix singing over Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
ChestnuTT’s opening band, Shawn Hewitt, is not bad. Energetic enough to get everyone moving with the positive-tip lyrics. But Cody ChestnuTT(pictured, above) steals the show, coming out in a red jeweled cape and flip flops with white socks. I’ve always been a fan of ChestnuTT, extending past his one hit song with The Roots, ever since hearing his songs like “Bitch, I’m Broke” and “Looking Good in Leather.” But this time around, he’s got a much more serious message, singing about Indians turned into mannequins and asking where we we?d be without soul music. It’s a pretty intense, politically-charged show, and the crowd is hanging on his every word.
9:00pm: Feeling much better, I head over to the Knitting Factory a few blocks away. Once again, there’s a long line outside. Two dudes behind me are telling me about a Houston MC by the name of Trae. “Clipse will be cool, but Trae is where it’s at.” I smoke about four cigarettes before someone comes down the line informing me that the place is full to capacity and anyone with a CMJ pass cannot get in. I step out of line to argue, along with 3 other people behind me, also freezing and holding passes. There’s nothing we can do…
10:00pm: So I quick-step back to the Canal Room, because I would have rather seen Saul Williams anyway. But not to my surprise, they aren’t accepting CMJ passes anymore either, and I’m beginning to wonder if this laminated card is worth shit. But I try not to scream at anyone and instead relocate to The Mercury Lounge to catch The French Kicks. But as my luck would have it, they tell me that they, too, are no longer accepting people with passes.
So I call up the boss feeling defeated and tired. “Jonathan, I’m afraid I’ve failed miserably.”
“Perfect, you have done well, Friday,” he says. “Write it up warts and all when you get home. Sometimes the whole point is the pointlessness of it all.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eva is 22 years old and from Los Angeles. Her favorite band is the Velvet Underground. That’s why we hired her. Eva goes to Temple. Some would call her an ‘intern,’ but we call her Editorial Assistant because we believe the media should empower young people, not belittle and exploit them. But that’s just us.