Wednesday was the first day of Mondo.NYC, a brand-new festival created by CMJ founders Bobby Haber and Joanne Abbot Green. There’s been a lot of speculation about the fest, particularly because the future of CMJ remains in question, and with the announcement of Mondo.NYC coming as recently as June, we haven’t had a ton of time to figure out exactly what to expect from it.
But that changed on Wednesday, as we finally got our first taste of Mondo’s many offerings in the form of panels and showcases spread across the city. Check out some of the highlights below, and stay tuned for our continued coverage throughout the week.
Before the evening of shows kicked off on the first day of Mondo.NYC, the day was jam-packed with panels on topics ranging from streaming to the next big music apps to press and PR to marketing your music as an artist. Basically, no matter where you sit in the industry, whether you’re an artist or a publicist, a developer or a journalist, there were about 10 panels for you—the only problem was choosing which ones to go to, as there were as many as four going on at any given time.
“The Next Hot Apps You Need to Know” was moderated by Fabrice Sergent, co-founder and CEO of Bandsintown, featuring panelists Alex Jae Mitchell from Audiokite, Luke Montgomery from Turnstile, Sairam Chilappagari from Jukebox.io, and Dan Melnick from Turnstile and Stereocast. The panelists discussed the risks associated in launching a brand-new app and the danger of including assumed funding in your business plan. They also turned us on to some new apps that are useful in the music world, such as the YouNow livestream app and SuperPhone, an app that allows someone like an artist to send seemingly personal mass text messages directly to their fans in order to promote or sell new material. The future truly is mobile, people.
One thing definitely worth mentioning is the keynote, a conversation between NPR’s Bob Boilen and Glassnote’s Daniel Glass in which they discussed their different approaches to discovering bands and what they look for in an artist, how Glassnote is doing things differently as a label, and their mutual admiration of Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora (I concur).
The “Press and PR: How to Rise Above the Din” panel, moderated by Bob Boilen, featured Christopher Weingarten of Rolling Stone, Ken Weinstein of Big Hassle Media, Michelle McDevitt of Audible Treats, Skipper Bond of Bond Morochi and Ben Kaye from Consequence of Sound. This was definitely the panel to attend for artists seeking press or trying to figure out when they should start shopping for a publicist. The panelists went down the line describing what makes an artist stand out to them in an email, the perils of blind pitching, and how seeing a band live can sometimes redeem your opinion of them if you weren’t jazzed upon first stream. A major takeaway tip for artists came from McDevitt, who advised not shopping for a publicist before you have material or shows to promote.—Emily McBride
Speak Easy hosted a well-over-capacity party of Mondo.NYC attendees at Pianos. After about an hour, the fire alarm went off, and everyone in the crowd slowly sipped on our free drinks and wondered aloud if we should be evacuating. Eventually, we were all told that the fire department was coming since the venue was over capacity, so we all started chugging and headed outside to watch the firemen chainsaw the hatch doors open (still not sure why that was necessary) and then disperse for the rest of the evening’s buffet of shows throughout the city.—Emily McBride
The Bowery Electric
Mondo.NYC’s lineup places an emphasis on discovery; with the exception of a few bigger names (like, for example, Angel Olsen), it mostly features unknown or emerging artists. That’s great, in theory, but Wednesday night at The Bowery Electric served as a reminder that the execution of such a lineup can be a little more hit-or-miss. It’s easy, as a spectator, to underestimate exactly how difficult it is for an artist to win over a crowd who has no idea who you are, and some fared better than others on Wednesday night. Brett Saxon had to fight for the crowd’s attention—most were gathered by the bar, loudly chattering—in an environment that doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to acoustic guitars and long, complex story songs. The Lulls—who, it’s worth noting, stood out in the crowd and watched every band that played before them—fared better. Their SoCal indie-pop was catchy enough to turn heads and get people moving. Henry Hall (pictured at the top of this article) had a natural charisma and a cool falsetto delivery unique enough to command attention (perhaps performing’s simply in his blood—he’s the son of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall). But the bar was set Wednesday night by Natalie Duffy.
Duffy doesn’t have an album out yet—just a song or two on Spotify—but after seeing her perform, I’m excited to see what she’ll come up with. She’s got pipes that make her interpretations of Drake’s “One Dance” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” seem effortless and not-at-all cringeworthy (which they might have been if tackled by a lesser singer), but her own songwriting is what’s most intriguing. Duffy just moved to New York a year ago, and her lovely, folky song “I’ll Be Fine” chronicles that move in a way that’s relatable to everyone, regardless of where you live. She introduced “Spanglish Love Song” with a story about falling in love with a man while studying abroad in Barcelona. The song cleverly pokes fun at their language barrier and includes a cheeky little parody of Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E.” Of all the artists who performed at The Bowery Electric on Wednesday, she was the one who fully won over the room, and she managed to do it with just her voice and an acoustic guitar.