Friday, February 18, 2011

Four Days in Febbo

The Beast hates Westwood. Hate hate hate hate. Hate so thick and creamy it could pass as Fosselman's ice cream. So of course where does Seattle's Experience Music Project decide to hold its 10th Annual Pop Music Conference (and first outside of Seattle)? Why, UCLA, of course! A lovely campus with many desirable resources to be sure -- but also a labrynthine mess of expensive (and paltry) parking and a confusing layout of buildings and side streets. In other words: UCLA is micro-Westwood within macro-Westwood -- the equivalent of a smaller-scale replica of Las Vegas within Las Vegas itself.
The subject of this year's conference (Feb. 25-27 -- that's next week, ffolkes!) is Cash Rules Everything Around Me: Music and Money, which makes one think that relocating to L.A. is a bit of an insult -- as if the organizers couldn't think of a better place to essay/assay the base and unrefined materialism of the music industry. So of course, our bitching must mean there's some pretty good panels available over the three days, right? RIGHT. You want names? How about Simon Reynolds, Oliver Wang, R.J. Smith, Greil Marcus, Eric Weisbard, Ann Powers, Robert Cristgau, Dan Charnas, Johnathan Lethem, Holly George-Warren, Cheetah Chrome, Seymour Stein as panelists. All of spread out evenly over all three days, which unfortunately means driving from the San Gabriel Valley all three days, which equates to about 4 1/2 hours of drive time plus about $40 in parking fees. Sigh.

Among the panels that interested us: "Scenes, Screens, and Schemes: The Multifarious Politics of Pop in Los Angeles" (ahh, there's that L.A. bashing), something enigmatically dubbed "Death's Kingdoms," "SoCal Polyphony", "Panic in the City: Episodes from a History of Suburban Revolt," "The Cost of Free Jazz" (with panelists Charles Sharp, Jeff Schwartz, Jeff Kaiser and Vinny Golia) and "Southland Sounds: Understanding Los Angeles Through Music." The titles of some of the original papers are even more tantalizing and frequently hilarious. To whit: "Go-Go Dancer and One-Hit Wonder: Toni Basil as Embodiment of Cultural Mobility in 60s Los Angeles"; "Forget It, Seymour Stein – It's the Chinatown Punk Wars"; "Hair, Hunger and Hollywood: Hear N' Aid and the Story of How Los Angeles Almost Saved Ethiopia," "The Jonas Brothers Are Dorky and Miley Cyrus Is a Slut: Gender, Power, and Money in the Disney Ghetto," "Animals, Cannibals, and Blah, Blah, Blah: Ke$ha and her Native Style"; "King of Bling: Liberace's Gilded Age" -- and those are just on the first day!

P.S. Across town, a day before the UCLA extravaganza (Thur., Feb. 24) , USC will host a one-day mini-conference entitled Work It: Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Pop Professions, with an equally great lineup of speakers: Ann Powers, Daphne Carr, Marissa Meltzer, Daphne A. Brooks, Nikki Darling, Gayle Wald, Margaret Wappler. This is also free and open to the public.

P.P.S. Yes yes yes it is all fine and good to listen to people talk about music, but if one is starving for a little nonverbal conversation, mystical trumpeter-teacher-shaman Wadada Leo Smith will perform with members of the Southwest Chamber Music ensemble Sat. the 26th downntown at the Coburn School as part of the SCM's "The Voice of New Classical Music" season. Not a bad night to get in a break from the flying bon mots.

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