20 April 2007

it's just begun!

[ann powers ended last night's keynote talk by referencing "we've only just begun" instead - "the real and beautifully fake karen carpenter" - but i prefer the jimmy castor bunch - q.v.]

yep, here i am again, back where i started one year ago, in beautiful EM(P)erald City, getting my conference on. 1st blog anniversary festivies will be forthcoming, as will the rest of the mega-ish post about disco i started writing yesterday in the koolhaas libarary (a building comparably funky to the emp itself, though slightly less ostentatious and definitely more charming.) but for now i just wanna do my reportage; i'll attempt to stay better on top of it this year. brought little mnemo so that might help.

only a couple sips into my "early times" (what the receipt called my whiskey and ginger ale?), as logan and i sat in our little corner of the revolution bar and grill sighting faces and soaking in the old memories, i got a txt-message mission to say hi to m. barthel, aka eppy, who happened to be sitting right by us. so i did. mission accomplished. friend number one.

jonathan lethem, whose cred as "one of us" - a rockwrite, specifically, that being the dominant visible culture at emp - i raised an uncertain eyebrow at a little while back, was validated in eric weisbard's opening address/introduction since he seems to aspire to true rockcritdom despite having achieved actual success as a more legit writer. his "love-song of the wanna-be" only vaguely danced around that issue, though it was largely a wandering personal narrative and account of his own history as a fan (and as a dancer, in highly articulate, amusing detail.) it turned out to be less about "the fannish auteur" (which may be something like the condition aspire to, or probably already inhabit, fandom elevated to auteur status) and more about the imposture and amateurism of of "actual" musicians. how fandom simultaneously mythologizes its objects and castigates them for "not being more than anyone could be," and how popstardom seems always or often to involve some element of imposture or chicanery. which was slightly vague. discussing mostly the beatles, the stones, dylan, chuck berry, james brown, iggy pop, sid vicious, and rap, he touched on appropriation, lack of "actual musical talent," and the image of everyman/nonentity...but there wasn't much talk of reality/authenticity in terms of emotional or artistic "truthfulness," which i thought was sort of significant. (the idea that he was calling rock stars out as in some sense "fakes," without a very clear notion of what that means exactly.)

his talk was not very structured, at least not in a clear way for the presentation of ideas, but it was very literary, kind of adorably so (and it was great to see that his off-the-cuff speaking style approximates that careful diction and sentence-composition to a great degree.) and very funny. he talked about his mystified teenaged obsession with determing the identity of the "fifth beatle," and then the realization that maybe there wasn't a fifth beatle - and after "learning" that ringo's drumming was "bad" ..."maybe there wasn't even a fourth!"

anyway, yeah, the authenticity debates were off and running, almost immediately. and as soon as the comments started (if not before) the race/authenticity card was played - somebody called lethem to task for referring to louis jordan as a "clown"; he acquitted himself admirably i thought, but without mentioning that it's because he was funny; xgau chimed in to make that point and also to rather gruffly, if astutely, point out that "clown" has a very specific meaning in (contemporary) black culture. powers said "welcome to the bob christgau/daphne brooks connection," and daphne half responded/half demurred.

other questions led to some interesting talk about tricksterdom (lewis hyde got a namecheck), neoteny (the suggestion that rock is a neotenous form of blues or jazz) and, of course, sanjaya.

time to go hear alyssa's boyz!

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