Varick Street Subway Station, Monday, October 23, 1:00 a.m.
I can hear raps thumping through the tunnel as I wait for the 2 train to swing me back to my spacious uptown floor. The danger of events like CMJ, it occurs to me, is that they encourage journalists to make sweeping generalizations about the state of indie rock, or of the music business, or of our own psyches, when we'd be better off just focusing on whatever music we're fortunate enough to encounter. Or, in my case, not encounter. Still, it's hard not to consider the state of college music when you've voluntarily immersed yourself in the stuff for four solid days.
I glance back at the schedule, at my favorite bands, which I hopefully circled back when this all began. The names are listed there in rows and columns, in a typeface that should be outlawed or come with its own magnifying glass. And all around those names are the monikers for other bands: ones I might see if no wait were involved, and ones I wouldn't see if it could deliver a cure for cancer (though, to defend such selfishness, that scenario seems highly unlikely). And then there is the greatest number of bands--ones I've never heard of. Wannabe guitar contenders who are right now trying to decide whether they should all dye their hair the same color, scheming to place their faces on magazine covers and their videos on MTV Asia. Crews of beat believers who formed on a lark and will dissolve on a whim and will leave nothing but a poorly silk-screened T-shirt and a few MP3 files in the ether.
There's more stuff crammed into the cultural landscape than any one person could possibly experience, even if one's all-access badge actually provided all access. However insular this CMJ universe may be, it is unknowably large and limitless. And there is something reassuring in that. If there are still faceless people trying to eke mediocre music out of the most banal conventions, eventually some smart guy or gal is going to stumble across a sound that might change my life. Isn't that why we're here?