Oh great! CMJ’s music marathon is coming to the Big Apple again. Well, this is my happy CMJ story for the impressionable kids who’ll attend this year.

Once upon a time in the late ‘90s, I lived free and easy, going to any show my bulbous ass desired. As October rolled around one year, I got an email from College Music Journal’s outside publicity department, inviting me to get a free laminated pass for their annual ten-day music marathon hosted by many of my favorite clubs: the now-defunct CBGBs, Mercury Lounge, Irving Plaza, and several smaller spaces. This was a time before the Bowery Ballroom became the mecca of indie rock, dethroning a more mainstreamed Irving Plaza (a.k.a. the new Fillmore).

So anyway, I thought, ‘What the fuck! I’ll get the silly laminated pass and have access to any event without making a call or sending an email to the record label or outside publicity staff.’ Everything seemed cool, man!


The first night of CMJ’s prized music marathon, featuring hundreds of budding bands, is about to begin. And I’m going midtown to pick up my all-important all-access pass. No prob. I leave Jersey early but get caught in a traffic jam during an unexpected downpour. Still, despite working an eight-hour day, I make sure to get to the building where CMJ told its constituents to meet. I fight traffic and get there five minutes before the 9 PM cut-off time. I head downstairs where a sign distinctly says ‘CMJ Registration.’ I get there. No one’s home. What the fuck!

Someone tells me registration’s been moved upstairs so I scamper to an elevator and find the right floor. It’s now 8:58. I walk off the elevator and head quickly to the registration room. I wait ten minutes and get told by fat lunk-headed security thugs that registration, for this evening anyway, is closed. And they were being douche-y about it being closed, no less.

So I said, “Closed? I just hustled here for no fucking reason when I could’ve called the label or publicity for access to any event I wanted to. You fucking assholes! Get me Scott Frampton (CMJ editor) on the fucking phone now!’”

First of all, I didn’t even want their goddamn stupid laminated badge of courage. Out of town journalists look like such loser assholes wearing those stupid things around their necks anyway. Thankfully my life doesn’t suck enough to wanna display some pedantic CMJ badge to look cool trying to pick up hideously trendy splotch-faced hair-damaged chicks. And I hate the droll post-teen flops wearing those badges unaware of how much of a sniveling shit I know they look like.

Hell. The years prior to this, I’d just call publicity when I needed tickets for a certain CMJ event. Like any respectable journalist (of which there are fewer nowadays), I’d cover the shows without needing the goddamn CMJ laminated pass. But that momentous rainy night in autumn, CMJ bungled badly. In previous years, I never had to worry ‘bout gettin’ in to see the bands I truly admired. Never. It was just a phone call or email away.

Anyhow, I felt it was my precipitous duty to show the CMJ security thugs just how I felt about not getting my useless all-access pass. After some further yelling, I picked up a newsstand holding new copies of the precious CMJ Weekly and tossed ‘em all over the floor. I took a few that were stuck in the newsstand and brought them street level to be dumped into the muddy puddles in front. And then I headed to whatever-the-hell show it was I felt like going to anyway.

Funnily, the next day I call a friend in publicity and relate this entire story and hear silence, then laughter, on the other end. The publicist snickers, “Yeah. We heard. We had four kids from a Pennsylvania college come in to town and they were behind you on line when you went off the wall. They called us right after it happened and were a little scared but also happy you did it.”

I’ll probably attend several CMJ shows this year. But I won’t trust CMJ’s invite. Especially now, since I just ripped ‘em. But I do feel it’s necessary to get critical about CMJ’s content, which lacks objective opinion and thereby sucks.

Plus, CMJ has not been a worthy barometer of true college ‘tastes’ for years. Why? The same heritage indie rockers that were around when CMJ began too often crowd the inane top 10 too frequently. I’d guess the chart placements are manipulated by whatever few corporate ad dollars still lie around the comatose record industry – but that’s just speculation.

The real truth is: CMJ’s never been into writing critical reviews about the artists it covers, probably to soothe label’s artists then given exposure at their annual New York ‘snowcase.’ Their non-opinions are a bit shy for my tastes. Worst of all, I feel the non-entities that run that out-of-date publication couldn’t give a shit about the artists they cover. They even suck more cock than RollingStone does now (since they cover American Idol douchebags and Britney Spears non-talents to gain sales).

I’d never even care about their insignificance if they hadn’t fucked me over that night. Fact: I was there on time, jerkoffs. And I went out of my way going midtown instead of heading right to the downtown events to start with. Thankfully their simian security scum that night probably have nightmarish memories of the incident. That is, if they were smart enough to have recollections at all.

-John Fortunato


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