Discovering my new favorite bands at the CMJ Music Marathon

The CMJ Music Marathon celebrated its 35th anniversary this month. If you haven’t heard of it by now, you should; it’s the coolest way to discover new music! It’s a huge music marathon that takes place all over NYC and Brooklyn. Each venue is packed with fans that don’t even know they’re fans yet. Open ears and hearts drinking in all the good vibes and transcending tunes. It’s a place where you may even meet your new favorite band before they hit it big. Artists come from all over the world just for a chance to be heard.

Here are a few of the bands that I dug at this year’s CMJ:


So this post is a little late because I didn’t get to see DNCE live in action until a week later! They’re already pretty damn popular- eating all that cake by the ocean! When I first heard DNCE, I thought, “1. Wait, is this my new favorite band? and 2. Are they performing at CMJ?!” And yeah, they were. The new band is comprised of Joe Jonas (yes, of The Jonas Brothers) on vocals, guitarist JinJoo, drummer Jack Lawless, and bassist Cole Whittle (who looked like an awesome hipster Aladdin at their EP release show).

Pronounced “D-N-C-E” no “A” because you will dance your a** off hearing their music. But really JinJoo told Rolling Stone, “DNCE is ‘dance’ without an ‘a,’ which is obviously not a perfect word, but you don’t have to be always perfect to dance or to do anything. Life is never perfect, but you can always enjoy.” Their show is entertaining as hell. Major props to Joe for getting this band together and creating some sweet funk-pop tunes.

The Zolas

I went from one Rockwood Music Hall stage to another and stumbled upon the musical geniuses of The Zolas. The indie rock band hails from Vancouver and it was their first time playing in New York, which I found so hard to believe. They had a loyal crowd of fans shouting their favorite songs and they even have a song about falling in love with New York! Little by little, I started to fall in love with them. Zachary Gray, the lead vocalist and guitarist, dedicated one of their songs to Mulan because he saw the Disney movie and was completely impressed by her. Then he followed up by saying he was continuing with the feminist theme and went into the next song. Good views and good music- what more can you ask for?

The rest of the band is comprised of Tom Dobrzanski on piano and vocals, drummer/vocalist Cody Hiles, and DJ Abell on the turntables. The Canadian dudes captured the cozy room. They even ended their set with Zach jumping in the middle of the crowd to perform “Escape Artist”- making it super intimate and special.


While working a CMJ event, I met Foxtrax and it’s actually the first time I met a band then checked out their show without even hearing their music. They gave me some good vibes! Foxtrax is vocalist, guitarist Ben Schneid and the Stenz brothers- Jon on drums and Jared on bass. They play indie-rock alternative music with some old school rock and roll and other surprises thrown in. The boys were the talk of the fest- not only for their good tunes, but because they were smart and went to the CMJ panels to learn about the music world and asked questions to better themselves.

The Long Island band is brand new- only forming earlier this year, but it doesn’t seem that way. Their EP and band name was formed after staying in a cabin in the North Carolina mountains. They followed actual fox tracks in the snow and found their band name! All-around super impressive for a band that just got their start. Fun/super cute fact: their moms were in the crowd at the CMJ show I attended!

Tobias Jesso Jr.

Tobias is one artist I really wanted to see, but missed out on. The Canadian artist is a 6 foot 7 tall singer, songwriter, piano man, and total cutie (seriously, I’d date him- sign me up!). With his swoon-worthy lyrics and 70’s vibes, he’ll capture your heart with just one listen. Even Ben of Foxtrax couldn’t get Jesso’s beautiful songs out of his head. Tobias goes even further with his songwriter skills by lending them to Sia (he co-wrote her new song “Alive” with her and Adele!) and oh, he also co-wrote a song on Adele’s new album called “When We Were Young”. I cannot wait to hear that song and can’t wait for him to play another show in New York.

So I told you about HIGHS (the Toronto-based band) last year, but honestly, I want to keep telling you about them. They were another reason my CMJ continued- I needed to see them perform live again. Venue, band van (hanging in a band’s van in the middle of CMJ chaos on the lower east side isn’t’s actually a lot of fun.), and Central Park hangs- they are awesome people and they make amazing music and you should listen. We also saw another great band together- Weaves and let’s just say they’ll rock the crazy out of you.

Here is this year’s CMJ mixtape of the bands/artists I discovered, met, saw live, or just love their whole vibe:

Featured image via DNCE’s instagram, other images via DNCE’s website, The Zolas facebook, Foxtrax facebook, & Tobias’ website.

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