September 15, 1999
DATELINE: New York
The plan was now complete.
In April of my junior year, I was named general manager of the radio station. When I applied for the position, I did so with one goal. I needed to figure out a way to get a trip to the CMJ conference. This task proved to be easier than I expected, so I grabbed 4 staff members and made my first trip to New York City. We checked into our stereotypically cramped and run-down hotel room at 55th and 7th, stepping inside the front door while a a police officer yelled at people outside in a stereotypical Brooklyn accent. New York City was just like the movies! But we weren't here to gawk. We had business to handle, and a long day ahead.
This was the first conference I'd ever attended as an organizational representative, but I somehow instinctively adapted to the mindset of a conference attendee. That is, I established the minimum number of "panels" I needed to attend in order to converse about new ideas for the station when I returned to campus. At the same time, since I had assigned staff members to attend specific panels regarding sales, promotionm or programming, it pretty much allowed me to pick and choose how to spend the day. Needless to say, I don't remember any panels I went to, as I spent most of the time trying to plot out a plan for the evening to ensure seeing the maximum number of bands in the city. This was the timeline of the evening.
7pm. Roseland Ballroom. 3 blocks from our hotel. Guided By Voices played an early set, as they were opening for Cheap Trick. The early start time no doubt explained why this was the most sober I'd ever seen Bob Pollard at the start of the set. Of course by the end of the set he was still hammered and wearing a the remnants of a Bud Light cardboard case as a hat.
8:30pm. The Roxy. We take the subway down to Chelsea for the official opening night party. The remnants of Hurricane Floyd were unleashing a torrent of rain over the city, meaning all CMJ shows which would usually be filled with attendees in humid clubs, would now be filled with sopping wet attendees in humid clubs.
I was informed that the Roxy hosted "roller-skating" night each Wednesday, which seemed like an excellent idea for a place serving alcohol. Alas, this was Thursday, so there were no skates, but we walked in as about 15 Nigerians stepped on the stage. Femi Kuti walked to the microphone, and if you haven't seen this guy perform, you're missing out. He fused African beats with American funk, and his unbridled energy won over the entire crowd, despite the fact that we couldn't understand a word coming out of his mouth. It felt like we were watching something from another planet.
9:30pm. Knitting Factory. The group split up here. I really wanted to see Sparklehorse, but two in the group wanted to stay at the Roxy, and two wanted to go to the Wetlands to see Handsome Boy Modeling School. So I hit up the Knitting Factory solo. This turned out to be a slight misstep. The city and previous performance had me running on an adrenaline high, so suicidal dream-gaze pop was kinda bringing me down. If only I had the foresight at the time to channel my feelings into song.
10:30pm. Outside the Wetlands. While waiting for the Handsome Boy-goers to meet me on the sidewalk, a stranger asks me if I need any drugs. Right there on the street! New York is crazy! The next night, two of my friends would attempt to buy pot outside the Hammerstein before a Chemical Brothers show, only to discover afterward that they had in fact spent $50 on oregano.
11pm. Back to The Roxy. We had been told earlier in the day that Jurassic 5 was the buzz-worthy band to see. They hadn't put out a major label release yet, but were riding high as the new great hope among throwback hip-hop collectives. Indeed, they were exceptionally fun, and despite the fact that we had been up at 4am that day flying to NYC, the party carried through several more hours on the first of the four-night extravaganza. Though I couldn't help thinking it would have been even better if everyone was on roller skates.