Surviving this weeklong urban bonanza, now in its 34th year, requires stamina, comfortable shoes and an unquenchable thirst to be able to say you saw them first. Much like SXSW, thousands of bands descend upon grimy bars, DIY venues and concert spaces across town to vie for the attention of label execs, bloggers, critics and other industry folk; the Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire and the xx all got their start here. But in recent years, it’s also become a place for established names to shock their fans. See: Kanye West making a surprise appearance at cozy Brooklyn Bowl, Daft Punk helping Phoenix close out their Madison Square Garden blowout (both in 2010) and Arcade Fire (they really have the whole CMJ thing down) causing Craigslist mayhem with a last-minute costumed album release party in a Bushwick warehouse in 2013.
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