April 18th, 2004

Day Two

The second day of the Experience Music Project conference was less exhilarating than the first. I often feel myself pulling away from an event after I've settled in. Sometimes I reconnect, sometimes not.

Me at the EMP

Today I did, but not before having a few panics in which I alternately berated myself for having nothing truly new or interesting to say and berated everyone else for the same reason. It's a delusion, I realize, but one that many scholars fall prey to. The trick is to remind yourself that there are even new and interesting things to say about Shakespeare.

Highlights this time included presentations on Pete Townsend's performance rituals, amply demonstrated with terrific footage from the Isle of Wight festival film; a wonderful, David Letterman-style Top 10 listing examples of bad stage patter delivered by the guy from Silkworm; Doug Wolk's delightful send-up of "fake" Beatles-type acts invented to cash in on the first days of the British Invasion; and Josh Kun's critique of the fantasy Tijuana conjured by Herb Alpert in the 60s.

Then it was time for a roundtable called "Critical Karaoke", presided over by the wonderful Joshua Clover, in which people like Ann Powers, Oliver Wang, and Greil Marcus read a short piece about a favorite song, with the song itself as a bed. The catch was that the piece could only be as long as the record. It worked, surprisingly. Some of the speakers were very moving. Daphne Brooks did a great thing Journey's "City by the Bay," that started out as a description of feeling homesick for San Francisco during a family vacation in the South back in 1979 -- Kim has a similar tale from her time in Denver -- and ended up being a tribute to her recently deceased father, a civil rights activist who made it possible, she noted, for her to have positive feelings about cheesy white rock.

At the reception afterwards, Joshua persuaded me to live up to my promise to do critical karaoke myself. I'd brought a song, but wasn't happy with what I'd written. So I banged out a short piece on my trusty laptop, while the DJ blared hip-hop beats. I used New Order's "Leave Me Alone", the last song on Power, Corruption, & Lies. Because I had to hold the mic in one hand, and my laptop in the other, I couldn't scroll down in the document and thus had to widen the margins and shrink the font to get it all on one screen. It went alright, though the song was quiet and most people were only paying partial attention. I did get a compliment on my choice of song, however, as well as a beer for my trouble, purchased by my very nice co-panelist from the day before, Jason Toynbee from the UK.

After the reception, I was supposed to have dinner with Joel's college friend and dub-fiend Vance Galloway. We made plans in the morning, but when I went to call him at 5pm, as arranged, I kept getting a fast busy signal on the only number I had for him, his mobile. By 8pm, I was ready to give up. So I called Chris, who just so happened to be driving Brad back to his hotel a few blocks away from the EMP building.

Chris took me back to Redmond, where I braved the Albertson's in order to find comestibles, returned to sing my first karaoke song ever on the xBox -- Y.M.C.A., of course, as sung by Nico, of course -- then watched the awesome Dazed and Confused with Chris and his former housemate Brian, who is in Seattle for the "Spring Thaw" bear festival.

After the movie, we all felt like getting pixilated -- though our substance of preference differed -- and drove down to Capitol Hill to The Cuff, which is apparently Seattle's biggest and busiest gay bar.

The Cuff

Although there were lots of bears and related genres with facial hair, bellies, or both, I also saw folks in costume, sleek clean-shaven guys, and more than a few women getting down on the dance floor.

The Mix

It felt strangely utopian -- or at least "heterotopian" -- in a 70s, Tales of the City way to me, probably because I live in Tucson, which has no dance floors, straight or gay, as big as the one at The Cuff. I took the opportunity to station myself where I could take pictures.

Reaching Out

They came out nicely, as you can see. Strobe lights and probing beats really bring out the best in me.

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