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Pop Music Conference, Seattle, April 10-13

I guess I'll share my Seattle experience in journal format.

April 9. I teach my classes, then my man Masa drives me to the airport. Flying into Seattle, I'm surprised to see snow-capped peaks just before arriving in the city. Later my cousins tell me that you can ski twelve months a year out there. Damn, cuz! By the time I'm settled into the hotel room, it's almost 10 pm. I wonder around the perimeter of Lake Union, looking for a place to get a bite. I go to a bistro, and eat macaroni and cheese with clams along with a Pilsner Urqell or two on tap. What struck me was how young everybody working in the restaurant was. Early twenties, from the manager to the bartender to the waiters and so on.

April 10. I spent pretty much the whole day in my hotel writing my paper. I did go out to do some walking and get a slice of pizza. Fortunately, I had a lot of notes to work with, and getting a good rough draft wasn't too hard. Who did I meet in the elevator of the hotel, but Cuban music specialist Ned Sublette. A middle-age dude with a guitar case. When I saw the guitar case I said you must be here for the Pop music conference, and he said yes, and what's your name? So told him mine and asked who he was. Ned Sublette. Damn! That evening, after a reception, there was a panel on Latino music in EMP's "Sky Church." Among the panelists were El Vez (the Mexican Elvis), Raul Pacheco from Ozomatli, and Louie Perez from Los Lobos. Confession: I had Louie Perez autograph my copy of Los Lobos "Just another band from East LA" album. During the reception I had met a couple of chicanos, and so along with a couple of other people, we went out for dinner (I had a fried oyster po-boy sandwich). Who should turn out to be sitting next to me but Elijah Wald, the expert on the Mexican Narcocorrido. How many times do you accidently find yourself breaking bread with a someone who has written a book that you have read? Not many, I would guess.

April 11. I didn't quite make it by 9:00 a.m. but I was in time to hear Dan Booth talk about Phil Ochs and then Anna Nikola discuss Sammy Davis, Jr. Later in the morning I heard an interesting talk on the racial dynamics of the Minneapolis scene (Peter Scholtes's "Hi Yo Silver, The Color of Minneapolis Rock and Roll, From Integrated Bands to Segregated Clubs"). In the afternoon I listened to Greg Tate, whose columns in the Village Voice I used to read, talk about "Black Rockers versus Blackies who Rock." (By the way, at the closing reception, I chatted for awhile with him about James Brown, Sly Stone and Tina Turner. He proved to be a pretty nice guy, and kinda shy, which you could never guess from his prose style.) After GT, Daphne Brooks read a great paper, "Walk Hard: The Ballad of Amy Winehouse." Friday was a beautiful day, so I decided to skip the evening sessions and walk along the waterfront. The salty air was delicious.

April 12. Friday evening I split my time between swimming in the hotel pool and putting the finishing touches on my paper, so by Saturday morning I was ready to kick back and enjoy the conference. The first paper I listened to was by Phil Ford, whose blog, Dial M for Musicology I frequent. It was an interesting paper on "the auditory imagination of the American left." I especially enjoyed the film clips he showed from the The Battle of Algiers. The highlight of the panel, though, was a history of disco by David Scott. Disco's heyday was probably 1977, but its demise by 1979 was due to several factors, among them a nostalgia for the romantic idealism of the sixties, racism and homophobia, as well as its own excesses. The next panel I went to was "Resistance." Ned Sublette started things off with a good paper on "surviving in Cuba and New Orleans with Music," and this was followed by a fascinating paper on electronic music by Maurice Methot. Next, David Rubinson on getting back at Big Brother. In the afternoon, I heard a couple of great papers on New Orleans, one by Joel Dinerstein, whose work I have borrowed to inform my radio show. His talk, "Second Lining for Life ...After Katrina" was about the revival of the second line tradition after the storm. My panel was at 4:00 that afternoon. I talked about "crossing over" and the influence of Latino music on American pop music. I compared it to Spanglish. I think the talk went over pretty well, though who am to I judge? I was happy just to get a few laughs. On our panel, Elijah Wald talked about "how YouTube has revolutionized the Narcocorrido" and Josh Kun talked about Don Cheto. Oscar Garza discussed Doug Sahm and the Chicano revolution. Saturday evening there was a special presentation by David Ritz, who talked about ghostwriting for Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye (He was behind the words for "Sexual Healing," Aretha Franklin and others. It was an inspirational talk, and he closed by playing David Ruffin's "Walk Away From Love," which he considers a sort of prayer about all the paths we don't take in our lives.

David Ritz

I went to the reception, but I skipped the afterparty, in spite of the free liquor and food, because the plan was to go kayaking with my cousins the next morning and I wanted my wits about me. Instead I went swimming in the hotel pool and read drank a little wine in my hotel room and crashed relatively early.

April 13. My cousin was there at nine sharp to pick me up. We went kayaking in inflatable kayaks. I had never gone kayaking before in my life, but I did fine. Luckily for me, the rapids were only class two. My cousins, the jokers, were saying stuff like, "Mark, it would be a bummer if you died on us." Yeah, right. The river is snow melt off, so they put me in a 1000 dollar "dry suit." Funny, I always thought they were called "wet suits." My cousin John is planning a 10 day kayak adventure in Alaska and Canada in August. That's the sort of stuff those Seattle cousins do. In the afternoon there was a family gathering on Mercer Island. It was good to see cousins, aunts, uncles; some of the relatives I had never met before.

All in all a wonderful trip. A couple of photos over on Mondo Marco.


Aye Carumba!

Sounds like a you had a great time...
And lived to tell!

May 2018



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