Monday, October 27, 2014

CMJ 2014: Day 2 at the (new) Living Room with ALEXZ JOHNSON & FICTIONIST

Tonight, I'll be headed to the Barclays Center for yet another concert (packing 'em in before we hit 2015, ya'll) -- and I'll tell you all about how it goes later.

Without further ado, let's continue chatting about my week at the CMJ fest, eh?

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


DAY TWO (Wednesday), I was off to another new venue and the only one I'd be hitting in Brooklyn. The Living Room was a former LES (Lower East Side) hotspot before closing up shop downtown and recently making the move to the ever hipster-friendly neighborhood of Williamsburg. (I should take this time to mention that at the time that I took this trip to the 'Burg, none of us were aware of the Ebola outbreak. Sigh.) The venue literally just opened up for CMJ and isn't really "finished" yet. The flooring was still fresh and they didn't have a liquor license. For a CMJ showcase, no alcohol is a pretty big "huh?" but Big Picture Media -- one of the main PR firms backing CMJ -- were hosting for the night and were offering everyone free drinks. (Score!)

Fictionist. (C)
A lot of bands played the Big Picture Media showcase that night -- kicking things off was a trio from Ohio called Plaid Brixx. I was getting a lot of Green Day pop-rock vibes from them.

Next up came a buzz band called Fictionist from Utah (Provo, to be exact). Clearly they already had a present following at The Living Room that night. Their energy really skyrocketed the audience in terms of excitement for what was to come. Easily, they were my first real "super excited to be introduced to them by happy accident" of CMJ this year.

Their latest is called "Free Spirit".

Then came a Dallas country-rock, Americana kind of band called Somebody's Darling. They were a lot of fun and their frontwoman has a fab voice.

They were followed by another buzz band that had a large following in the audience, the Long Island boys from BRAEVES. They had a very ethereal ambient slow-burn rock kind of vibe. Their EP, Drifting By Design, is available for your perusal on Spotify now. My favorite's called "Talk Like Strangers".

Alexz Johnson. (C)
Then came the artist I was there to see, one of my most anticipated and a musician I've been a fan of since her days on "Instant Star". Canadian singer-songwriter Alexz Johnson was playing her set as a part of her Let 'Em Eat Cake tour -- the album of the same name has literally just dropped for your purchase (so get it!). Wearing a black jumpsuit with a sexy large cut out in the back and toting the most gorgeous white Gretsch guitar I've ever seen, the majority of the set was from her new album and she immediately captured and stunned the audience with her serious vocal chops.

While the title track is a huge fave of mine if only for its serious Fleetwood Mac vibe alone, I'm also really partial to "Heart Turns Black" and "I Will Fall In Love".

She closed her set with a spontaneous addition of "Thank You For Breaking My Heart", from her Heart EP that came out earlier this year.

This soulful, heartfelt stomper was the perfect capstone to a truly incredible performance. There was a momentary stunned silence after one of her big melismatic riffs toward the end of the song and someone right behind me said out loud "Are you kidding me?" (and it captured on my video). Kind of hilarious and totally deserved.

Oh, and her backup band included her teenage kid brother on the drums. Serious musical talent in this family.

If you're not familiar with Alexz, get on board now.

To get to know these bands even better, check them out on Twitter via: @PlaidBrixx, @FictionistNoise, @SomebodysDarlin, @BRAEVES, and @alexzjohnson.

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