When Jason Isbell was asked to contribute a song to A Star is Born, after reading the screenplay he dug deep into his well of past demons to guess the struggles Bradley Cooper’s character Jackson Maine might have been going through. Drawing on his own path to becoming sober with help from his wife Amanda Shires, Isbell sums up the journey perfectly in 2:40 of near-perfect song: “I’m glad I can’t go back to where I came from / I’m glad those days are gone, gone for good.”
For decades, there have been two dominant names in the music-discovery festival game: SXSW in Austin and CMJ in NYC. While the typical festival books the biggest acts they can afford, these two deliberately focus on a plethora of new and obscure artists looking for their big break. Last year, though, one of those twin pillars collapsed with CMJ’s mysterious disappearance) amidst all manner of controversy and turmoil).
Brooklyn’s more recent Northside Festival was already positioning itself as a CMJ Jr. when we went last June, focusing on showcasing hundreds of up-and-comers on rather than a few big names. Well, there’s no “Jr.” any more. With CMJ gone, Northside became New York’s default replacement.
It’s ready to fill the role though, bringing a wide array of artists from across the country to Williamsburg for one weekend. As we did last year, we picked our five favorite discoveries we’ve never written about here before, with a cover from each.