New York City Serenade

Jay Buchanans CMJ diary

Last month, Fullerton singer/songwriter Jay Buchanan and his band landed a much-coveted showcase slot at the big, boffo College Music Journal (CMJ) conference in New York City. On the confab circuit, CMJ is mega: an annual record-industry schmooze-and-booze-athon that attracts hundreds of bands from around the world, an event rivaled only by Austin's South by Southwest. The idea is for bands and musicians to sell themselves—to cultivate the sort of useful industry connections that could help them get to the next level, however that level is defined. What follows is Jay's journal of four days in the pursuit of Making It.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 18

4:30 a.m. Ron Kaufman's house, Costa Mesa

An early start for those of us accustomed to lying down at this time. I believe this is why everyone seems to be wearing black mourning attire. Though early, Chris Powell, our drummer, has his usual bring-it-on-'cause-I'm-ready vibe, while Ty Stewart somehow manages to duct-tape his guitar cases together and glow at the same time. Bassist Todd Sanders sips and smiles while talking about his coffee and what its mass would be on one of Jupiter's moons. Ron, our manager, paces, checking and re-checking. When most people pace, they're nervous. When Ron paces, he builds momentum. I have the flu and a fever, and I want to die.

6:20 a.m. LAX

Ty and Ron work the counter while the rest of us move gear. Do I look like a man with a half-ounce of marijuana in his pocket? Guess not. I pass through security while Ty's gear bag gets searched for bombs. Flight boarded without a hitch.

8:15 a.m. Somewhere over North America

I get stuck in an aisle seat next to an asshole who refuses to acknowledge my existence. The band sits together in the back. Every time I look back there, they smile, and so do I. I try to sleep, but the magic 90-to-91-degree-angle recline button doesn't seem to help. If the asshole next to me were nicer, he would let me borrow the stick he has up his ass so we might both have something to prop our feet on for the rest of the flight.

4:15 p.m. Limousine to hotel

We get off the plane, and there is a man standing there in a black cap and jacket holding a sign that says, "JAY BUCHANAN." I can't believe people get used to this. We all recline and toast with a beer—"Here's to New York!"—while a complete stranger drives. The frequent phrases of "This is fucking great!" and "Good times!" are traded among the band like a peace pipe.

5 p.m. The Soho Grand Hotel

Imagine you are stuck on the set of an Aaron Spelling movie. The enormous lounge is decorated with 30-foot, Romanesque pillars and very good-looking people. There are A&R's [Artist & Repertoire] from various labels, publishers, and money—plenty of money walking around. The crew takes a walk for pizza while I have a stout with a promoter friend from LA in the hotel bar.

8:30 p.m. Posh restaurant: the Jezebel

We meet an A&R man and his boss there. The food looks good, and the wine is very expensive, but I can't taste a fucking thing due to my cold. Rapport is a bit strange. We love the A&R, but the boss is a different breed—very quiet but definitely a cool head. After talking a bit, I find him both an intellectual and artistically sensible. Conversation moves along, and we decide we like the boss. The band gets restless, and we step outside for a smoke. Somebody says, "We're in New York. Let's hit it." We agree and walk back inside to say goodbye.

10:30 p.m. Underground bar: the Cellar

We meet with a publisher and the same A&R we went to dinner with. Good times, but the place is so alive that nobody can hear a fucking thing. The publisher is a good friend, and he's excited, so we're happy to follow when he says, "You guys have to see this band in Times Square tonight." We have more drinks and then step outside for a talk with Mary Jane. Hoping to surprise the Killingtons and show up at Brownies, Ty tells us we're already late. Ron flags down the cabs, and we're off.

11:15 p.m. The WWF Nightclub in

Times Square

WWF? The crowd is young and pissed by choice. The band comes on, and we all look at one another. The publisher tries to keep up the excitement, but it's no use. Four songs and two beers in, we are out. Right away, the publisher says, "They're really big with the women." I observe that there were no women in there, but you just can't shoot down a true optimist. He recovers: "If they had a midget in the band, they'd go platinum!" Everybody cracks up. This becomes the running joke of the night.

12:15 a.m. More NYC

We hit three more bars, play pool, and get beaten by a San Bernardino-style speed-whore in leather pants. We have one for the road and call it a night.

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