EMP Pop-Con 2006: National Treasures on Guilty Pleasures
posted by April 29 at 3:49 PMon
Yesterday afternoon I got myself to the Experience Music Project for part of the first full day of the 2006 Pop Conference. I couldn’t stick around for as long as I would’ve liked, but the time I spent there was dreamy. This year’s thesis question—“What forces are at work when we like something we ‘shouldn’t’?”—is dear to my heart (my first play was about my tortured obsession with the art of then-homophobe-du-jour Axl Rose) and the gang of artists and writers EMP’s corralled to discuss the theme is impressive. Strolling around yesterday was like going to pointy-headed music heaven, with a parade of people sporting nametags I recognized from bylines (Blender guy! Spin girl!) and the previous night’s keynote speaker Stephin Merritt hanging out in the cafe. (As anyone who’s been exposed to my Stranger writing is aware, I love Stephin Merritt. However, there’s no denying that he bears a strong resemblance to David Sedaris. They’re both brilliant and hilarious and gay, and they both chain-smoke. Has anyone ever seen them in the same room, at the same time?)
Back to the conference: I attended the 4pm panel “Aural Correctness,” featuring one of my favorite living writers, Robert Christgau, who’s been hashing through the minutia of contentious art for decades (from Johnny Rotten to Professor Griff to Marshall Mathers) and who yesterday took on the crack-happy new strain of gangsta rap, as produced by Young Jeezy, L’il Wayne, and the Oscar-winning Three-Six Mafia. It was deeply entertaining, and surprisingly emotional: Recounting preparations for his father’s funeral, the crusty old Dean choked up a bit. It was a lovely thing to see, especially in the middle of a high-minded, equivocal paean to crack-slingin,’ bitch-slappin’ gangsta rap.
However, the definitive Christgau moment came seconds after his introduction by moderator RJ Smith, who praised him for “making the Village Voice what it is.”
“What it was,” Christgau growled, to applause.
The EMP Pop Conference continues through tomorrow at Seattle Center.