Mondo NYC, New York City’s latest annual music festival and business summit, had its inaugural kick-off event happen on September 14th at New York University’s Kimmel Center. It was at this location overlooking Washington Square Park that the five-day festival began with a proclamation read on behalf of Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the days spanning September 14th through 18th as officially being “Mondo NYC Days”. While the festival included “music, tech, (and) media” as proclaimed in its logo, it also offered a chance for participants to “listen, connect, disrupt, (and) create.”
The festival model may have induced in some people a sense of familiarity especially to any patrons who once attended the highly beloved but seemingly now-defunct CMJ Music Marathon. While this similarity lay in part to the event’s structure, its most notable connection can be recognized in co-founders Bobby Haber and Joanne Abbot Green, and with good purpose; the Mondo co-founders originally created the CMJ Music Marathon way back in 1980.
Following in the footsteps of CMJ’s format, Mondo NYC’s five-day event had a lot to offer for anyone either involved with or even merely interested in the music industry.
One mystifying anecdote occurred during the “Press & PR: How to Rise Above the Din” panel when Rolling Stone Magazine contributor Christopher Weingarten, contributor to the monthly column “10 New Artists You Need To Know”, made it quite clear that most bands would not stand a snowball’s chance in hell in trying to get him to see them perform live.
While the daytime schedules included industry talks and panel discussions the evenings offered up musical showcases for the up-and-coming talents.
The perfect segue between the morning panels and afternoon acts was a bar-crawl mixer hosted by Sneak Attack Media located at Piano’s. The meet-up offered an opportunity for the day-to-night transitional period to incorporate musicians and industry sorts to share and discuss the morning’s events upcoming nighttime festivities. The event attracted a robust crowd and offered a centralized location to other nearby NYC Mondo locations touting a mere ten-minute walk in any direction.
Echoic @ Cake Shop
With the mixer winding down it was off to neighboring Cake Shop (QRO venue review) to catch UK alt-rockers, Echoic, start off the Pledge Music showcase. This set was their first of three throughout the week in a festival where most bands were only allotted one slot. Starting off the festival with a decidedly European take on pop-rock, Echoic oozed confidence taking the tiny basement venue as it they were headlining an open-air music festival before thousands of people.
The Commuters @ Cake Shop
Up next for the Pledge Music Showcase were The Commuters. These five musicians had a similar style aurally to the previous band Echoic, but with an underlying sense of New York City cool. While not quite at home in the seedier underbelly of Cake Shop, The Commuters emanated a confidence and demeanor that bred a sense of belonging despite these musicians all being born and raised outside of the five boroughs.
Organized Scum @ Cake Shop
Songwriting two-piece Organized Scum had an additional two-member support team to bring their songs to the stage. Continuing the Pledge Music showcase this group cranked through a set of feel-good jams keeping the mood light and bouncy. The soft vocals and easy melodies had the audience rocking gently back and forth to their light-rocking soundtrack.
DethRok @ The Delancey
Offering up some industrial-stylized tunes (and a major departure from previous day’s acts) over at The Delancey was solo artist DethRok. The droning synths and monotone vocals created hypnotic grooves with dark underpinnings to a mostly smaller but engaged audience. DethRok, the once sound engineer for industrial trailblazers Ministry, had influential traces elements from the legendary group throughout the set list but carried and altogether dissimilar sound despite the record being created with the aid from frontman Al Jourgensen.
Autodrone @ The Delancey
Pulling slightly back from the more obscure edges of the industrial scene while presenting a decidedly more accessible in-road were veteran alt-goth-rockers Autodrone. The group served fuzzy layers of guitars, thumping drums, with a pretty vocal to further explore the darker musical elements where perhaps Siouxsie & the Banshees left off.
Another rousing day of panels and industry talks got into the real nitty-gritty with the talk “Understanding Blockchain: The New Accounting?” A topic which would divide any group between insanely boring and exceptionally enlightening depending on their passion for wanting to completely rewrite the process of collecting music royalties. Luckily, if this topic was too hard to swallow (and it may have been seeing as attendance was low – although those present were utterly spellbound by the discussion), the rest of the evening was crafted for not on those on the musical creation side but those more aligned with the public relations side with a panel on “The Other Data: Tracking and Managing Your Audience.”
This evening’s segue into the nighttime came for some with an exclusive invite to the Littlstar for the IDG.tv VIP Party. The space was limited and offered finger foods and various cocktails. The atmosphere was relaxed, but along with the exclusivity came an awkward sense of being somewhat out of place as if you crashed a house party where everyone knew each other.
Talos @ Bowery Electric Map Room
Squeezed into the tiny space that is the Bowery Electric Map Room was the large presence of Irish band Talos. Opening the night with their uncluttered and minimalistic musical approach the sounds painted atmospheric swatches in which the listeners could lose themselves. The light and sensitive lyrical approach had the audience closing their eyes and swaying to the gentle vibes.
t s h i m a @ Bowery Electric Main Room
A collaboration between electronic musician t s h i m a and Brooklyn-based visual artist by the moniker Videopunks took the main stage in the Bowery Electric. The visual artist, working out of a suitcase, supplemented projected visuals on a far wall for the act which otherwise would have a typical static stage presence. The distorted VHS-styled images cut and spliced random clips saturated in color to a backing track of chilled-out beats and textured synths mixed under digitally altered audio samples.
Turner Cody & The Dukes of Decline @ Pianos
Back at Pianos (QRO venue review), Turner Cody and his backing band The Dukes of Decline were channeling electric Bob Dylan by playing a decidedly rollicking set of folk-rock numbers with a shuffling and upbeat tempo.
Lola’s Ghost @ Leftfield
The Drink More Records Showcase at Leftfield opened with lone performer by the name of Lola’s Ghost. Playing a lonely and haunted soundtrack backed with commanding vocals, she shaped a sobering yet fragile atmosphere.
The Judy Blooms @ Leftfield
In the moments between previous set and the time it took The Judy Blooms to take the stage a surprising number of people filled the small space that makes up the stage area of Leftfield. Not only were the numbers there but also the support was obviously present for the duo with a handful of people calling out to request specific songs by their titles.
Elle Exxe @ The Delancey
The singer with perhaps the most buzz at Mondo NYC the Scottish solo artist Elle Exxe (sans usual backing band). Taking to the spotlight of The Delancey she used all of the available space on the stage to run around and convulse to her hard charging pop hits. She kept the audience entranced with her high-energy performance and would have fared exceptionally well on a larger stage.
Negative Gemini @ Bowery Electric Main Room
Taking to the stage in the Bowery Electric’s Main Room was yet another lone artist. Utilizing loop pedals, excessive reverb, and a plethora of pre-loaded samples and drumbeats was the electronic soloist Negative Gemini.
Twiga @ Cake Shop
In the perfect environment of the Cake Shop (QRO venue review) basement Twiga stepped things up with a rousing brand of psychedelic rock. With tunes that moved the audience to shake around, Twiga jammed out to a twangy reverb soaked lead guitar.
Robot Princess @ Cake Shop
Making the most of their time at Mondo NYC was quartet Robot Princess. The definitive indie rockers cranked through their set with reckless abandon in the basement of Cake Shop.
Reputante @ Pianos
On a moody black-lit Pianos main stage the dance-based Reputante played a jangly and catchy upbeat set. While the audience didn’t partake in much dancing the mood was right if anyone bold enough felt the need.
Pool Cosby @ Bowery Electric Map Room
Stirring up the Map Room of the Bowery Electric were sounds of Pool Cosby. The producer, violinist, drummer trio delighted the tiny venue space with a blend of hip-hop and jazz mixed with live-samples and strings. The small room bounced to the sounds and forced one more track from the group once their set had reached its limit.
As the mid-point of the festival hit and anybody who had made it this far was rewarded with another full day of industry talks and panels (although some were not so lucky enough as to make it that early, unfortunately). For those who cut straight to the party there was the TuneCore Mondo Crawl upstairs at The Delancey Lounge from 6-8 PM. While the setting was picturesque all of the seats were “reserved” for some people obviously too exclusive to attend because every booth was practically empty. This mattered little since the booze ran out by a mere 7:15 so it was onto the basement to see what the night had to offer.
Kathryn Gallagher @ The Delancey
Two floors down the guitarist/singer Kathryn Gallagher played twangy-country influenced songs. Playing alongside a percussionist she captivated the audience with her juxtaposition of soft and strong vocal parts over gently plucked acoustic chords.
Jocelyn & Chris Arndt @ The Delancey
Immediately following in the basement of The Delancey was the brother sister duo of Jocelyn & Chris Arndt. The brother/sister duo rocked the basement of The Delancey with deep bluesy riffs and R&B inspired grooves. The two offer an incredibly polished and soulful performance, which was perfectly complimented by an outstanding backing band.
Faulkner @ Pianos
THICK @ Bowery Electric Main Room
The all-female trio of THICK started their set spitting beer one another thanks to some audience participation – and that was before the first song was even finished.
Psychobaby @ Bowery Electric Main Room
With a name like Psychobaby, the performance was left with something more to be desired.
Marilyn Carino @ DROM
Across town in the basement of DROM (QRO venue review) was artist Marilyn Carino singing over trip-hop a styling in the vein of early Portishead. Carino shared the stage with a live drummer but while she was relatively tethered to her position near the keyboard eyes were drawn to the overhead projection that created a central focus for the eye.
The Everymen @ Pianos
The Everymen played an exciting set over at Pianos main stage in the throes of evening’s festivities. The New Jersey natives packed the stage and cranked through an exciting set. They even delightfully closed out their set with a wonderful rendition of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” including a direct homage to the Blues Brothers with synchronized dance steps!
Carnival Youth @ Pianos
Carnival Youth closed out the evening with a clean pop-rock showcase on the main stage. Easy and accessible songs closed out the night leaving good vibes for the trek home.
Day Four of the festival started in a slightly different fashion, as the panel discussions and industry talks concluded the previous afternoon. Anybody burned out by trying to attend every event had a reprieve in the scheduling with the first bands not taking the stage until the evening. Another full day of shows in New York City and Brooklyn (although the Brooklyn leg was not quite reached this time around, sorry BK!) left the attending patrons with plenty of choices of talent.
Dirty Dishes @ Bowery Electric Main Room
The Bowery Electric started the day’s line-up with the fuzzed out sounds of Dirty Dishes. The trio rocked out to sounds reminiscent of early ‘90s radio-pop groups, but armed with a sense of underground street-cred those other musicians lacked. Any Mondo NYC attendees who failed to catch this show sure missed out.
Kris Angelis @ Bowery Electric Map Room
The Bowery Electric Map Room had attendees seeing double when Kris Angelis and her twin sister Alix took the stage. Under the stage’s red lights Kris strummed away on her acoustic guitar while belting out falsettoed lyrics over folksy melodies. Her twin sister Alix harmonized selected phrases and supplied backup vocals creating a sort of organic chorus effect to the vocals.
Mane @ Pianos Main Room
Armed solely with an acoustic guitar and a digital pedal soloist Mane performed the main stage of Pianos (QRO venue review). Her gentle guitar skills paired wonderfully with her jazzy vocal crooning. She sweetly mused in between songs about her short time in America thanks in part to this specific show. She also comically noted how shocked she was as to the amount of water is used in the toilets per flush here.
Leo & Cygnus @ Pianos Upstairs
A benefit of not having the Mondo NYC festival book acts in the upstairs of Pianos on day four was for act Leo & Cygnus to grab some attention away from other showcases. The Maryland-based five-piece sang songs with folk-leaning harmonies yet with a progressive yet experimental musical edge.
Raphaelle @ Pianos Main Room
Only a considerably powerful backing band matched the powerful vocal presence of singer Raphaelle. Bringing a classic sound to the Mondo NYC music festival, Raphaelle had the swagger of an old-soul musician and was an absolute musical delight. Having the opportunity of seeing such a talent on a small stage underlined the benefit of festivals such as Mondo NYC.
Party of Two @ Cake Shop
One aspect missing from the Mondo NYC festival which forerunner festival CMJ had an abundance of was ‘unofficial’ showcases. However, while there seemingly were no officially sponsored unofficial events, Cake Shop (QRO venue review), honoring Mondo festival passes, had a line-up that supported two female musicians by the name Party of Two. The two girls played a mellow set of acoustic guitar and vocals, which, for one tune, covered a Justin Bieber track fulfilling the cutesy pop-music quota for the week.
Overlord @ Cake Shop
Capping off a night of unofficial shows at Cake Shop was Overlord. Celebrating their album release “The Well-Tempered Overlord” the band playfully gave away items in between songs (including a glowing light-up trinket for the person who travelled furthest to get to the show).
The final night of Mondo NYC began with a closing night party that was something of a mystery to locate for some patrons. The L4 Black Door & Rolling Rock sponsored closing night party was listed in the Mondo NYC app as being from 5-10 with an open bar from 6-7 but was impossible to find with no actual listing of it’s location to be found anywhere. Instead the last remaining scraps of festivalgoers looking to cap off an exciting week of live music went to Pianos (QRO venue review) since most of the night’s final shows were located there.
Florie Namir @ Pianos Upstairs
Easing in the last day’s performance were the soft sounds of Florie Namir. Seated behind her keyboard, Florie performed before a thin crowd (most were likely still recovering from a hectic four days worth of excitement). The upstairs of Pianos took on something of a lounge vibe with the bar area in full effect and the crowd mingling and enjoying the easy atmosphere.
Civil Villains @ Pianos Main Room
Down in the main room, when Civil Villains attempted to poll the audience to accurately describe their sound in between songs, not one person offered any genre-expressive adjectives. However, this British trio punctuated their set with quick arpeggios, time changes, and unusual time signatures. They took a moment to acknowledge their collective childhood dreams of playing New York City come true.
Ira Lawrence @ Pianos Upstairs
Singer/songwriters Ira Lawrence held down the top floor of Pianos weaving between ethereal soundscapes of digitally processed mandolin strumming and slightly distorted riffs. He bemusedly stumbled through one particular track when the in-house fire alarm started blaring. After a few moments of the grating alarm he paused as the room pondered exiting the room.
Zigadoo Money Clips @ Pianos Main Room
Amidst Piano’s fire alarm distraction the Zigadoo Money Clips kept the party going with their brand of ska-infused rock edginess. In spite of the instinct to flee the premises the group could be spied using the staccato rhythm of the fire alarm as a backing tempo in which they improvised and impromptu jam session.
Jouska @ Pianos Main Room
The Albany-based Jouska brought the indie-rock to the stage in the midst of their heavy touring schedule. Although being relatively local, their appearance was something of a rarity as they find themselves playing all points between Ohio and Washington, D.C.
One of the last acts to close out the festival was two-piece electro-thrash band Dirty Heretics. Despite the long days the festival offered up the energy was high on stage at Pianos. Offering up an electro-punk attitude they brought a high-energy performance despite being the last band to take the stage for the festival.