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  • CMJ 2015 is in full swing. The festival takes its name from the College Media Journal, which was started by Robert Haber in 1978. Haber’s publication was aimed at college radio programmers and their audiences, a crowd which is still well represented at each year’s festival. This year the CMJ speaker schedule includes talks and workshops on the radio resumes, interviews and the history of student-run radio as well as the CMJ College Radio Awards.

    As much as the five day, non-stop marathon still honors its history in college radio, it also delves into the live scene. Well over a thousand bands with varying levels of exposure play venues all over New York. From the basement-like space of Cake Shop to the expansive Brooklyn Bowl, artists gather to play their best and celebrate music. This year’s line-up includes bands of every genre and size. Seeing all of them is infeasible, but here are about dozen acts that you can’t miss.

    – – – – – – – – – – T H U R S D A Y – – – – – – – – – –

    Glass Animals
    Genre: Indie Rock
    Set Time:
    Thu, October 15, 8:00 PM
    @ Terminal 5
    Listen To: “Black Mambo”

    Girls with Brown Hair
    Genre: Indie Rock/Comedy
    Set Time:
    Thu, October 15, 8:06 PM > 8:16 PM
    @ The Unicorn
    Listen To: “Dad Rap”

    Panda Bear
    Genre: Experimental
    Set time:
    Thu, October 15, 9:00 PM
    @ Bowery Ballroom
    Listen To: “Boys Latin” off of Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

    The Maccabees
    Genre: Indie Rock
    Set Time:
    Thu, October 15, 11:00 PM > 11:45 PM
    @ Mercury Lounge
    Listen To: “Spit It Out”
    off of Marks To Prove It

    Genre: Indie/Punk Rock
    Set Time/s:
    Thu, October 15, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM
    @ Union Pool
    Fri, October 16, 1:45 PM > 2:15 PM
    @ Palisades
    Sat, October 17, 11:30 PM > 12:00 AM
    @ Pianos
    Listen To: “Molly” off of Dry Food

    – – – – – – – – – – F R I D A Y – – – – – – – – – –

    Have Mercy
    Genre: Punk Rock
    Set Time:
    Fri, October 16, 6:30 PM
    @ Marlin Room at Webster Hall
    Listen To: “Collider”

    Genre: Indie Rock
    Set Time:
    Fri, October 16, 6:30 PM
    @ Marlin Room at Webster Hall
    Listen To: “Stovall” off of Stovall

    Genre: Indie/Pop Rock
    Set Time:
    Fri, October 16, 9:15 PM > 9:45 PM
    @ Alphabet Lounge
    Listen To: “Systems” off of Aporia

    Gang of Thieves
    Genre: Funk Rock
    Set Time:
    Fri, October 16, 11:00 PM > 11:45 PM
    @ Fontana’s
    Listen To: “Cocoa Mocha”
    off of Thunderfunk

    Celestial Shore
    Genre: Indie Rock
    Set Time/s:
    Fri, October 16, 8:00 PM
    @ Baby’s All Right
    Sat, October 17, 2:00 PM > 2:30 PM
    @ Fulton Stall Market
    Listen To: “Creation Myth”
    off of Enter Ghost

    – – – – – – – – – – S A T U R D A Y – – – – – – – – – –

    Narc Twain
    Genre: Indie
    Set Time:
    Sat, October 17, 6:30 PM > 7:20 PM
    @ Pianos (Upstairs)
    Listen To: “Downhill”

    State Champs
    Genre: Punk Rock
    Set Time: Sat, October 17, 7:00 PM
    @ Webster Hall
    Listen To: “All You Are Is History”
    off of Around The World and Back

    The Wonder Years
    Genre: Punk Rock
    Set Time:
    Sat, October 17, 7:00 PM
    @ Webster Hall
    Listen To: “Cigarettes & Saints”
    off of No Closer to Heaven

    Motion City Soundtrack
    Genre: Pop Rock
    Set Time:
    Sat, October 17, 7:00 PM
    @ Webster Hall
    Listen To: “Lose Control”
    off of Panic Stations

    Kate Nash
    Genre: Singer/Songwriter
    Set Time:
    Sat, October 17, 11:30 PM > 12:30 AM
    @ Bowery Ballroom
    Listen To: “Sister”
    off of Girl Talk

    Potty Mouth
    Genre: Punk
    Set Time: Sat, October 17, 7:30 PM > 8:10 PM
    @ Bowery Ballroom
    Listen To: “Cherry Picking”

    -Zoe Marquedant

  • alex sichel

    There are many different ways that people diagnosed with a terminal illness cope with the devastating situation. For filmmaker Alex Sichel, best known for 1997’s All Over Me, the obvious response was to create a film about it. A Woman Like Me, directed by Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, is a hybrid documentary that includes scenes of Alex’s illness and exploration of various treatments, along with a fictional narrative that parallels her own story. This latter film-within-a-film stars a luminous Lili Taylor as a New York-based filmmaker named Anna who is also dealing with breast cancer, but whose upbeat attitude and positive outcome contrasts with Alex’s experience. A compelling composite,  A Woman Like Me is an honest, moving portrayal of a vibrant personality managing a terrible health crisis with creativity, humor and grit.

    Early in the film Alex tells us that making a movie “is my way of understanding what’s going on.” While she sometimes wonders if the stress of filmmaking is the best way to use her time (her mother is strongly against it), it’s clear that she has to do this. The goal for Alex, who identifies as Buddhist, is to face death without fear; making A Woman Like Me is part of her process to achieve that, while also holding on to some hope.

    A Woman Like Me, unlike other “meta” films with complicated storylines, is fairly simple and chronological: We see Alex working on character development with the cast of her fictional movie in between visits to traditional doctors at Sloan Kettering and the alternative healers she favors. She includes several family members in the documentary, including her seven-year-old daughter Anastasia. While supportive, her parents and husband Erich have issues with her treatment choices. (Her mother especially is dismayed by Alex’s “magical” thinking.) Alex winds up trying various approaches to save herself: chemo and other drugs, plus non-Western healing such as light harmonics. Onscreen she is a likeably sardonic character, often making wisecracks about her situation, though she also lets us see the strain of the illness’s physical and emotional toll.


    Gritty scenes of chemo injections, PET scans, and unflinching conversations with Alex’s various physicians are interspersed with dreamy passages of the fictional Anna interacting with her own husband and daughter, talking serenely with her doctor, and generally taking it all with graceful acceptance. This enlightened character and her beautifully lit scenes seem to represent an idealized version of Alex, someone in whom she finds inspiration.

    As the film progresses and Alex’s condition worsens, she becomes increasingly preoccupied with how to involve Anastasia in her situation (as does the fictional Anna with her daughter). There’s a tough scene in which Alex and Erich bicker about seemingly trivial film details at the dinner table, while Anastasia – a cheerful, inventive girl – tries to keep the darkness at bay. Alex visits an idyllic Buddhist temple and meditation center, and talks about using her illness as an opportunity to truly explore the practice’s tenets. At one point, she and her entire family visit the small Greek village from which her mother’s family originally emigrated. The movie ends with Alex back at the Buddhist temple, talking about letting go and facing death without fear. She died shortly after filming A Woman Like Me (Giamatti finished the movie alone). It’s a lovely testament to her life and spirit.

    A Woman Like Me opens tomorrow at Village East Cinema in Manhattan.


    Jose Nestor Marquez’s new film Reversion is a stark, no-frills thriller about a young woman named Sophie (Aja Naomi King), the marketing director for a controversial new tech product as well as the daughter of its inventor, Jack Clé (Colm Feore). Called oubli (nice French references), the ear-mounted metal clip enables users to relive their fondest memories via a device that resembles an iPhone. Days before its launch, Sophie – who repeatedly uses the device to relive moments with her deceased mother — is kidnapped by another young woman (Jeanette Samano) in desperate need of the device’s code.

    Thus Sophie learns that there is much more to oubli than she knew, and that her overly protective neuroscientist father has been hiding major secrets about its development. The film has stark, appealingly sleek visuals, but Marquez’s low-key direction may be a little too antiseptic for its own good, as we struggle to relate to his underdeveloped characters. Though clunky at times, Reversion does have an intriguing concept and just enough momentum to maintain one’s interest in its outcome (as well as a fascinating turn from the always game Amanda Plummer as Jack’s somewhat unhinged former associate). It’s yet another reminder that cool new technology invariably has a downside, if not quite as dark as this one.

    Reversion opens tomorrow at AMC Empire 25 in Manhattan.

    Marina Zogbi

  • On October 1, Olivier Rousteing’s exotically ritzy looks for Balmain were on full display as the fashion house presented clothes for Spring 2016 Paris Fashion Week.

    Set at Paris’s Hotel Intercontinental, the star-studded event drew notables like Diplo, Jada Pinkett Smith, and of course members of the Kardashian clan.

    And while we shouldn’t care about whether or not Kris Jenner and her brood were in attendance, it’s important to pay attention to the 29-year-old designer.

    Since taking over Christophe Decarnin’s creative director position at Balmain in 2011, Rousteing has been killing it in the fashion world.

    Let’s look at three reasons why Balmain is a huge force that is changing fashion history forever.

    Read More

  • Brian Sella

    Brian Sella

    To celebrate the release of their first release on Fueled by Ramen Records, The Front Bottoms played Brooklyn’s Rough Trade. Entry to the show was granted with purchase of the album, Back On Top, and came with a signing after the show. The formula is one Rough Trade is a) known for and b) built for. The combined record store/concert space has the stage in the back and the floor space within the shop itself to accommodate both events.

    Before the show fans, most of whom were hugging a recently purchased vinyl of Back On Top, lined up along the wall of the store, chattering excitedly about the record. It was a fairly young crowd, some members bragging about how they had cut class to line up early. The guy handing out 21+ wristbands didn’t have much to do. Despite the age difference, one thing was clear. Everyone was there for the band.

    Not that only die hards are capable of showing up to an early show on a weekday evening. Everyone is and was welcome. It wasn’t the show that collected passersby or casual listeners. Partially because Rough Trade is tucked somewhat away from the rest of Williamsburg and partially because the nature of the show attracted the more “serious” fans. The majority of the crowd accumulating in Rough Trade really, really liked the band. That’s why they showed to the concert/signing, not just the band’s gig later in the month at Irving Plaza. In fact, many talked about going to both shows. Some even buzzed about seeing the band earlier in the summer at Skate & Surf. It was clear by the chatter that everyone loved TFB and was thrilled by the prospect of meeting the band after the show. The line quieted only when the muffled thumps of the sound check drifted through the walls.

    Eventually, the stage was set and the torrent of people was funneled into the venue space. The group quickly crowded the stage, which was relatively bare. The band’s usual backdrop was missing as were the inflatable “F” and “B” that usually floated above the drum set. The audience seemed unfazed by the stripped back appearance. They were still just as fired up for the show as they had been in line. One girl half clamored onto the stage just to snapchat Tom Warren’s trumpet, which sat unattended by a mic stand.

    When the band took the stage the crowd exploded in cheers. Brian Sella, the group’s lead singer, dressed simply in a white undershirt smiled wide and picked up his guitar. A large purple bumper sticker read “Look Twice. Save a Life. Motorcyclists Are Everywhere.” Several of the band’s songs, including some off of Back on Top, as well as their videos feature the boys on their bikes, so it was a fitting statement. Mathew Uychich, the band’s drummer and other founding member, sat down at his kit, which looked as if it had been frankenstein-ed together for the purposes of the somewhat acoustic show. Sella greeted the audience and explained Uychich’s demeanor as being the result of too much strong coffee. The other two members, Warren and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Ciaran O’Donnell, settled at their instruments and the band launched into “HELP”, their lead single off of the new record.

    Next the band played another song from the new album “Laugh Till I Cry”, which they premier on NPR prior to the release of Back On Top. The song contains an odd verse that Sella explained after the tune ended. The lyrics “Ladies and gentlemen! / The DJ / Just threw up / On the dance floor / The party is over! / It’s time to go!” were actually inspired by real events. According to Sella, a friend of the band who works as a DJ was booked for a sweet sixteen party. Their friend prepared for the gig by getting absolutely hammered. Then during the course of the party, their friend tried to get the teens into the music and dancing. All that movement resulted in his vomiting on the dance floor, hence the bit in the song. Sella laughed telling the story, saying that his friend’s attempt to get everyone dancing was rather a moot point because the partygoers were merely sixteen or as he put it “just kids.”

    Unbeknownst to him a sizable portion of the audience at Rough Trade was probably right around that age. The Front Bottoms lyrics deal a lot with the standard topics of growing-up, drinking, smoking and panicking about the future. In another one of their songs, “Twelve Feet” off of I Hate My Friends, Sella sings, “Maybe college won’t work out, / I can come live at your house / I’m supposed to be at class now / but my roommate just passed out / And I cannot get in my room, / get all my books and what I need.” Most people have felt something akin to the anxiety Sella alludes to in the song. His ability to write lyrics that are simultaneously relatable and yet refreshingly new is one of the band’s greatest strengths.

    The band’s song “Cough It Out”, which they also played at Rough Trade, is one of their softer, sappier songs that despite its lyrical focus on carving initials into trees and being delusional with love is one of their more original tracks. It’s a quiet, layered single that showcases all the musicianship that the band has built up since their early demos in 2008. It’s also proof that signing to a major label has yet to ruin the band’s sound. Another promising song off the record is “Historic Cemetery”, which translated somewhat haphazardly into its live version. The track, which usually ends with a rap by GDP, ended instead in a sort of solo by O’Donnell on a tiny keyboard that barely stretched over his knees. Sella admitted that they hadn’t figured out how to end the song yet, but the audience seemed more than pleased to cheer O’Donnell on as he looped through the main hook. The crowd shouted “do it!” and “tickle those keys!” as the tune petered out.

    The stripped back, somewhat intimate setting lent to much chatter from the crowd. When Sella sang “I’m just talking shit on you. / Sorry” during the opening of “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” one concert goer yelled back, “You’re not sorry.” Everyone laughed along and luckily the commentary always died down once the song started up. The song also featured Warren on the trumpet. His part was short and intermittent, but was greeted with a riotous cheer every time it came up. Sella later noted how O’Donnell was originally the band’s trumpet player, but switched to the keyboard and such as TFB expanded instrumentally. O’Donnell, he said, also never received that enthusiastic of a response to this trumpeting. The band chatted openly with the crowd during the set. It’s typically for the band to talk, but usually just to kill time while someone tunes or changes instruments. The Front Bottoms just seemed to talk. It felt less like banter and more like a conversation being had between friends. The band members seemed grateful for their success of the show and the chance to play Rough Trade, but the didn’t blubber on about it on stage. They thanked the audience, but also stayed on their level. Despite the release show, they were still same guys from New Jersey who like motorcycles and indie music. There was something just very real about them. The hope is that when they do get “famous” they’ll stay that way.

    To end the set, Mat and Brian chatted briefly about what to play, toying with the idea of ending on “The Beers” off of The Front Bottoms. They launched into the song, another sort of lovesick tune about taking steroids because “you like a man with muscles / And I like you.” When the song ended there was time for one more, so Sella started strumming. Before he could sing the opening lines to “Au Revoir (Adios)” the audience eagerly jumped in and sang them for him. Brian chuckled as the crowd continued to sing into the second verse, before finally uttering a sort of defeated “Oh come on…” and restarting the song. The moment characterized the entire evening. It was a small, almost personal show attended by people that really love the band.

    The set ended with a crescendoing chant for “Twin Sized Mattress”, the band’s best known song, but Brian waved and continued packing up. There wasn’t time for an encore. There was another band playing right afterwards; their instruments and amps draped in dust cloths just behind where the Front Bottoms had been standing. Disappointed, but eager to get on to the signing portion of the evening the room emptied as quickly as it had filled.

    -Zoe Marquedant