Among the many events at the 2003 Pop Music Studies Conference are some whose structure, substance, or format doesn't exactly conform to standard conference expectations. Should your tastes run less to the inscrutable, more to the madcap, here are a few picks indicative of the PMSC's skewed perspective:
The Dylan (Friday, April 11, JBL Theater, 1:303 p.m.) One of the conference's more erudite sessions, "The Dylan"—as one would say "the Pope," or "the Atlantic Ocean"—brings together State University of New YorkBinghamton's David Brackett with writers Franklin Bruno and Charles Cross to examine the fabled 1966 documentary Eat the Document, the hidden Hendrix- Dylan link, and Bobby's heretofore unacknowledged debt to Tin Pan Alley.
Underrated Pleasures (Friday, April 11, JBL Theater, 56:30 p.m.) Veteran musician and academic Richard Littlefield moderates a panel of writers and authors elaborating on some of pop's great hidden treasures, including Tin Pan Alley expert Will Friedwald discussing Fred Astaire as auteur, jazz critic Ashley Kahn on the man you love to hate (Barry Manilow), and rock journo Holly George-Warren unraveling the mystery of Bobbie Gentry. Will the world finally discover what Billy Joe threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?
Jon Langford: A Sorry Life in the Punk Rock Trenches (Saturday, April 12, Learning Labs, 12:301:15 p.m.) Langford, a 25-year vet of the punk and post-punk wars through his work with (among other outfits) the Mekons and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, has 45 minutes to say, quite literally, whatever the hell he wants. Quoting from his abstract: "I shall litter this presentation with pithy three-chord songs, loudly spoken words, smutty yet pertinent jokes, and some apocalyptic visual material committed to posterity by my own hand." Bring the family!
The Ego Trip Experience (Saturday, April 12, JBL Theater, 3:154:45 p.m.) An all-star team from Ego Trip magazine hosts a free-form discussion session, the topics of which will be chosen by spinning the big wheel Pat Sajakstyle. Possible subjects—"Women in Hip-Hop: Who Cares?" and "Which White Music Critic Thinks He Knows More About Rap Than Us? (A: All of you)." Think College Bowl meets the Watts riots.
The Sex Pistols Go Chicano: A Roundtable (Saturday, April 12, JBL Theater, 56:30 p.m.) A screening of Jim Mendiola's Pretty Vacant, to be followed by a discussion of Latino/Latina pop music featuring Mendiola and a panel of musicologists and professors from Vassar College, the University of Washington, and Cornell. Dontcha gimme no lip, Doc.