Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rock Crit Fart Fest Scene Report

There are conferences about Buffy the Vampire Slayer too... just saying, is all.


Behind the music: It's more than fun, sex, noise

At the fourth-annual Pop Conference in Seattle, music scholars went way beyond rock-crit jargon to find meaning.

There are undoubtedly people who still scoff at the idea of taking pop music so seriously. Certainly, such academic and rock-crit jargon as methodology, genealogy and authenticity were overused at the expense of concepts of fun, sex and noise. Courses in rock and hip-hop have become standard fare at universities, as have critics at daily newspapers. Thankfully, most presenters were careful not to take themselves too seriously. If someone dared to drone on about Dylan, you could go to another room and check out, say, disco historian Tim Lawrence's appreciation of Sylvester, or the presentation on Genesis P-Orridge's transsexual self-mutilation odyssey, or the secret Chicano history of punk. The conference received a record number of proposals, 275, in its third year.

Rock criticism has been around long enough to have dinosaur figures. Greil Marcus (author of the seminal '70s tome Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music) and longtime Village Voice writer and editor Robert Christgau roamed the halls of Frank Gehry's bizarre museum space, drawing the faithful to their presentations on blues songs and the Coasters, respectively. There were also genuine music legends: Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye talked about crooners, while Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas ranted and raved about a 1960s sci-fi movie host in Ohio.



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