By Dan Manning, WHUS Music Director

Every year, hundreds of different college radio stations descend upon New York City for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. CMJ is essentially the king of college music; it is the organization that radio stations submit charts to, and is the hub for all things college radio related. The marathon consisted of tons of showcases hosted by Promotional companies, record labels, and the like, as well as an Awards day filled with informational panels and discussion.

As Music Director here at WHUS, CMJ was a unique opportunity for me to meet and network with all the different promoters I communicate with over the phone and via email. It was also a great chance for me to meet people from other radio stations. Although most college stations operate in generally the same way, it was incredibly interesting to see how different stations handle different problems; from community member involvement, to creating digital music libraries, to making music readily available to the staff. I gained a huge amount of insight and tools with which to expand and improve my own way of doing things.

There were a number of panels on the Wednesday of CMJ, dubbed College Day, which proved to be very useful and interesting. There was a promoter panel, which focused on the various skills and techniques involved in the Promoter-Music Director relationship, and how to properly work together to make sure records receive the attention and praise they deserve. There was a series of presentations titled “Air Checks”, which involved more specific, unique stations discussing the issues they face. There was a presentation from an internet only station, one from an independent, non-funded station, one from a newly established station, and one from specialty genre directors. The Music Director panel was one of the most interesting experiences of the whole Marathon, featuring a Q&A type discussion on how to run a successful music department and the various problems that arise in attempting to do so.

Overall, the panels served to put a lot of the work we do here at WHUS in context with the rest of the college radio world and the industry at large. It’s often very hard to look at your job in a broader context, and as such it is very easy to lose focus and get off track. As independent as we like to claim to be here at WHUS, we exist within an interconnected network of other stations, promoters, musicians, record labels, and the like. It is important to acknowledge these connections and allow them to flourish, working off one another to create a greater sense of community amongst the world of college radio. It is a very reciprocal, symbiotic relationship; we cannot exist and survive without one another.

Panels and industry events aside, the Showcases happening during the Marathon were a great chance for us to see musicians we love, as well as the new, rising stars of college and indie music. Some personal highlight for me included Deradoorian, Kirin J Callinan, Protomartyr, Dilly Dally, Perfect Pussy, Downtown Boys, Oberhoffer, and PWR BTTM.

Deradoorian’s set consisted of one woman with a bass, loopers, a drum machine, and a few pedals generating hypnotic rhythms and vocal loops. During her performance, it seemed as though everyone in the room was completely entranced, letting out collective gasps of awe as she finished each song. Detroit’s Protomartyr were equally hypnotic, but in a much more aggressive manner. Frontman Joe Casey sputtered and spouted in his deep baritone over interlocking drum and bass grooves, while guitarist Greg Ahee’s spastic, harsh guitar jabs interjected the flow with beautiful precision.

In addition to these two, I was blown away by the energy and passion of Perfect Pussy, the anger and aggression of Dilly Dally, and the spastic energy and bowling skills (yes, bowling skills) of Oberhoffer. In fact, there were very few acts I saw at CMJ that didn’t blow me away.

Overall, CMJ was an amazing opportunity and experience for both myself and my fellow WHUS staff members. The Marathon seemed to spit in the face of those who say that college radio is on the way out. College radio is undeniably changing, but as I learned at CMJ, we are all ready and willing to change with it, supporting each other along the way.

Check out some highlights from the other WHUS staff members who accompanied me to the Marathon!

Kailey Townsend:

I thought that after living in Southern New York for most of my life, that I would have gotten the true NYC experience by now. CMJ weekend changed that. My knowledge of trains, venues, and where the best local pizzeria was located was all put to the test. I wasn’t incredibly close with my CMJ WHUS’ers, but after that weekend, we’re family. The first show of the weekend was of an artist we all frantically obsessed over before hand, Panda Bear. While using our passes to garner access into the venue, we found ourselves in close capacity on a balcony waiting for the show. While waiting for the first act, we began asking each other questions from favorite candy to life goals. It’s funny how college music can bring people together, all so diverse in genres, but all the same in our motives. We were there for the music, the conversation, to make a bigger connection of who creates what we listen to, who pushes it, and us, who play it. I enjoyed making the connection during CMJ. From introducing myself to musicians that I wish I could play during New Spins more than the FCC would allow to a night back at our temporary home with co-workers talking about our insane day.  There aren’t many times that you can have a secular experience in the bubble of a college campus, even in your own niche. I appreciate the culture of WHUS more because of my time at CMJ. I can’t wait until next year.

Onna Jaeger:

CMJ was quite the firework of a time. Starting off on Thursday afternoon, the WHUS humans trotted their way through the city (shout out to Kailey for being the most marvelous tour guide and navigating us country folk through the subway system). We managed to go to over 10 different venues to watch showcases by both well-known and emerging bands. Going into the weekend, I knew less than 15% of the artists performing. This happened to work out to my advantage because I was in constant wonder at the talent of these artists that I had never heard of. By the end of the weekend, feet were sore but ears were happy.

What I really dug about CMJ is although they called the multitude of shows “showcases”, it was far from any type of display. The artists were mingled throughout the venues, enjoying the rest of the acts and interacting with whoever approached them. Out of all the incredible music at the marathon, I would have to say my favorite show was Porches at Baby’s All Right. It was my first time seeing them perform live and their sound was on point with so much emotion. With the synth and rainbow lights I felt like I was in the 90’s prom that I had always dreamt of. In terms of my favorite ‘heard for the first time at CMJ and shed a tear’’ bands, Eskimeaux was top on the list. Besides the music shenanigans, I have to say that it was such a special bonding experience to spend 3 days with the WHUS crew. Ain’t nothing like friends & music in New York City. Bravo, CMJ. Thanks for one of the best weekends.

Mitch Britton:

My weekend in Brooklyn for this year’s CMJ music festival was one of the most interesting and activity-packed I’ve had in a while. It was an amazing experience and we did a ton to say the least. First off, I love the city, so any time spent there is like a vacation for me. Not to mention this trip was packed with shows occurring simultaneously all over Brooklyn, so it was almost overwhelming how many cool bands were around to see. There was a certain thrill to each day as we rushed around different parts of Brooklyn & Manhattan catching show after show, sampling delicious NYC food along the way. I’d have to say my favorite performance of the whole weekend was Porches’ set at the Ad Hoc Car Wash – a roomy venue inside an actual car wash. I adore their music, so seeing them live was nothing short of incredible. Also worth mentioning was Sean Henry’s set at The Silent Barn. I love his band High Pop, and his solo performance was better than any High Pop set I’d ever seen. He played with a ferocity that filled the room, bouncing energy off of everyone in the audience. Overall it was an awesome weekend packed with great shows, tasty food, and all limitless energy and culture Brooklyn had to offer.

Chris Colgan:

CMJ was bar none the best weekend of my entire life. From the experience of exploring the city, being blown away by bands I barely knew putting so much into live performances, to meeting different people from different stations around the country and even artists, this weekend was absolutely incredible. I went into the trip excited for acts like Panda Bear and Porches, but then ended up being mindblown by gender fluid punk duo PWR BTTM, which I think was the best set of the whole trip. Not only did they rock incredibly hard, but they had hysterical personalities and even kept people entertained during their tuning sessions by simply being amusing as people. The most impressive thing about them though, was that halfway through the set they switched instruments, the drummer coming to lead guitar and singing and the prior guitarist and singer going to the drums and completely pulled it off. It was ridiculously impressive, and that was only one of the many incredible sets throughout. Honorable mentions for me go out to Palm, Stove, Eskimeaux, and of course Porches and Panda Bear. As far as getting experience and networking opportunities out of this, I was introduced to many different operation directors of different stations and it was very valuable to see how a networking setting works in the music and radio industry.