Words by Audra Tracy | Photo by Jeremy Gordon

“I almost can’t even handle it”, My Morning Jacket front-man Jim James said from the South Stage at the 2013 CBGB Festival, set up smack in the middle of Times Square. Surrounded by the bewildering sights and sounds of New York City’s most bustling hub, Kentucky-raised James was feelin’ what he called a ‘sensory overload’.

James had it right – sensory overload is kind of the perfect way to describe the CBGB Festival itself. Honoring the storied rock club of the same name, the multi-day event took over New York City from October 8th-13th, featuring enough performances and rock-doc screenings to make any music fan a little dizzy.

Artists on the roster ranged from icons like Ice-T and Ginger Baker to ‘new school’ scene-sters like Nicole Atkins and Atlas Genius, and all the one-off shows lead up to one hell of a free gig on Saturday. For its main event, the CBGB Festival dropped two stages right on Broadway, transforming Times Square into a place that New Yorkers actually want to visit.

Vendors lined the sidewalks from 46th to 53rd Street, offering all the wares any child of the counter-culture could ever need – from records to skateboards to official CBGB swag. So in between early afternoon sets by the likes of Lisa Loeb, The Wallflowers, and Divine Fits, fans could try their hand at the half-pipe, or you know, just scale a towering rock-wall or something.

Saturday’s schedule seemed to hit its stride as James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) kicked off his DJ set with an ever-fitting sample of the tune ‘Back in the New York Groove’. From there, fans and confused tourists alike were treated to a lush performance by Grizzly Bear at the North Stage before gathering down the block for the big kahuna – My Morning Jacket. And oh, were there guest stars galore.

Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs), Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes) and the Antibalas horns joined the headliner early in their set for ‘Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am’, a tune off the new Fela Kuti tribute album, Red Hot + Fela. Later, Jakob Dylan joined James & Co. on a truly rockin’ cover of ‘Don’t Do It’ before MMJ proper took it all home with their own version of a sensory overload via the arena anthem, ‘One Big Holiday’.

As My Morning Jacket left the stage on Saturday evening, you realized that you just experienced all the rockstar glory that the original CBGB represents…and you didn’t even have to use its disgusting bathroom.


TheWaster.com | New York City