CMJ 2014: Day 1 at Rockwood with ELLE KING & HORSE THIEF

Well, guys -- I survived another year at the craziness that is CMJ. Given that Halloween is as manic as it is at my actual day job, this is an incredible achievement, I must say. I didn't go breakneck -- but I did see 3 of the 4 artists that I really wanted to see (and met a few new faves). Rather than batch everything up in one gigantic post like I did last year, I'm breaking this up into tasty little morsels of new music discovery for you to indulge in.

Again, for those of you who are unfamiliar with CMJ, it's a five day music festival that invites a thousand or so new, indie, and/or up and coming artists from around the world to New York City with one goal: the discovery of fabulous new music. For more info, check out CMJ.com.

This year was spent almost exclusively in "new" venues for me. Let's get started...

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Elle King @ Rockwood. (C)MelismaticBlog.com
DAY ONE (Tuesday), I headed down to where the groundswell of the venues for the festival are located -- the LES (or 'Lower East Side'). My stop was at the famed Rockwood Music Hall, a three-roomed performance space that is incredibly laid back and small.

The three rooms vary in size and I was game for Space #2, which really isn't much larger than a large living room with bar along one side and a small stage stuffed into the corner. When I arrived, the room was already stuffed with people to see the first act of the night: Horse Thief.

Originally from Oklahoma, Horse Thief was a group of dudes that were all over CMJ this past week and the excitement was well deserved. Their sound is guitar and keyboard-based and their album, Fear In Bliss, is available for your perusal now on Spotify and the like. The lead vocalist has serious shades of Bob Dylan to his vocals. Definitely check out "Little Dust" and my personal fave "I Don't Mind."

The showcase was broadcast live by WFUV.org, who have also posted some great videos from the performance, including this one of the boys playing a brand new song called "Drowsy".


Following Horse Thief was the artist I was at the showcase to see -- Ms. Elle King, a soulful country blues type artist with an incredible husky voice that's signed to RCA. Her full album is due out next year on the back of the stellar pop-twinged single "Ex's & Oh's" now being pitched to radio. You can file her alongside Cady Groves, ZZ Ward, and Kacey Musgraves.

Walking on stage in a dress with printed kissy lips and a black leather jacket, Elle King brought the serious goods.

Elle was backed up by a full band but herself went back and forth between a black acoustic guitar and a banjo. Her lyrics are full of comedy and barbs -- one of  my favorite numbers was "It's Good To Be A Man", which according to her lead to her receiving some "man hater" comments on social media. My absolute favorite song was called "Playing For Keeps", an early single of hers that was released on an EP called The Elle King EP (appropriate) in 2012.


She's also no stranger to the unexpected (dirty) cover. Her version of Khia's "My Neck, My Back" is available on the aforementioned EP. That wasn't present on Tuesday but she did close her set with an ace live cover of R.Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" complete with crowd singalong. It's the only way I'd tolerate R.Kelly if I'm being quite honest. You can see a bit of it via my Instagram here.

For more on the artists mentioned here, following them on Twitter via @horsethiefokc and @ElleKingMusic, respectively.

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