With hundreds of musicians in New York for CMJ last month, it’s nearly impossible to not discover a new favorite band. While bigger shows like Phoenix at Madison Square Garden created hype, up-and-coming musicians left impressions of their own. Below is a list of five acts to keep your eyes on in the next few months. Whether it was a room of 20 or 200, each band left their mark. Give them a listen and see why.
Rockwood 2 was packed to capacity Saturday night as Elizabeth and the Catapult took the stage. While a line continued to form out the door, the band impressed with a 40 minute set that featured breathtaking vocals from Elizabeth Ziman combined with fitting musical accompaniment. The official CMJ showcase acted as a mini CD release show as the band’s next release was due out Oct. 26. While fan favorites like “Taller Children“ had concertgoers singing along word for word, newer tracks like the powerful “Go Away My Lover” hushed and captivated the room. As Ziman alternated vocals with Jeff Taylor, additional cello and edgy percussion parts accentuated the song well. Complete with whistling and a darker sound than previous songs on their set-list, the stand-out track impressed.
Watch a video of “Go Away My Lover” from Elizabeth and the Catapult’s CMJ performance below.
Based in Nashville, The Honeymoon Thrillers came together after a discovery of records from the 1950s lying around the house. The five members are from four different bands and while they haven’t left their separate projects just yet, after I witnessed them live at CMJ they might soon reconsider. With classic guitar licks and “woah-oh-oh’s” that bring back rock & roll from the 50s, their energetic set was a crowd pleaser. Tracks like “Shine” embody the Beach Boys with spot-on harmonies and catchy choruses while frontman Nathan Barlowe’s energetic stage presence brought to mind Elvis Presley and his gyrating dance moves.
3. Matthew Mayfield
After a jam-packed morning of panels, while waiting for a friend to finish an interview I stopped by Rockwood 2 just as Matthew Mayfield took the stage at 3pm. Alone on acoustic guitar, his vocals reverberated throughout the room, having all in attendance drop everything to listen. With raspy Dave Matthews-esque vocals accompanied by his emotion-filled lyrics, the singer-songwriter struck a chord. Older songs like “Element” livened up his Friday afternoon performance while his intricate guitar finger picking fueled more angst-ridden songs including “Dead To You.” Mayfield’s vocals sound so familiar it comes as no surprise that his music has appeared on “Grey’s Anatomy.” While “First In Line” can easily be pictured on the show, it was “Fact or Fable” that made the greatest impact. Combined with fierce guitar strumming and Mayfield’s deep vocals, his voice silenced the room.
Watch Mayfield perform “Fact or Fable” on YouTube below and learn why he says it’s the heaviest song he’s written.
Combined with powerful vocals and descriptive lyrics, James Maddock’s music holds a certain timeless quality to it. His songs paint vivid pictures of love and failed relationships accompanied by soaring guitar and Maddock’s wavering vocals. Tracks like “Chance” embody an epic sound that can easily be pictured on the big stage while slower ballads like “Beautiful Now” showcase his more sensitive side. At times, his music evokes a certain Bruce Springsteen quality so it’s no surprise that The Boss himself is a fan and frequently plays Maddock’s music before he takes the stage. In the process of recording his next album, fans can expect to hear much more from the Englishman soon.
Watch James Maddock perform “When the Sun’s Out” on YouTube below.
5. The Ramblers
While they’ve been compared to The Band and “the finest Tennessee sippin’ whiskey,” the New York-based ensemble showcased their southern flavor during a performance at National Underground. The Ramblers had the room stomping their feet during upbeat numbers including “Leave a Letter Behind” and “Matter of Fact.” Alternating vocals between Jeremiah Birnbaum and Scott Stein proved effective and additional singer Shanna Zell added to their classic Americana rock. With soulful vocals and fleshed-out piano and guitar interludes, it was hard to assess who was having more fun: the band onstage or the fans on the floor. The Ramblers transformed the NYC venue into a southern honky tonk, having concertgoers sing and dance along during Birnbaum’s impressive guitar licks and Stein’s ferocious strokes of the piano. With frequent NYC gigs, The Ramblers are never too hard to find.
This article was originally posted on The Jazz Lawyer. Stay tuned for more interviews from CMJ in the coming weeks.