The EMP Pop Conference goes on the road this year and includes a stop this weekend in New Orleans. Plus, the return of Ray Nagin.
[Updated] For the last decade, the EMP Pop Conference has been the premiere venue for high-level music nerdery. Journalists, critics, ethnomusicologists and others who think seriously about music gather to share information, points of view, theories and takes - often on subjects that they couldn't find print homes for. In the past, the conference has met in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City, but this year's event is regional, taking place in a host of cities including New Orleans. It officially starts here the night of Thursday, April 18 at Mimi's, where Los Po-Boy-Citos will play an opening night party, then the conference begins in earnest the following morning at 9 a.m. with a panel on go-go music in Washington, D.C., and it ends with a Sunday brunch-time panel on "The Banjo in the African Diaspora" with panelists Don Vappie, Carl LeBlanc, Laurent Dubois and Demma Dia. Events generally take place on the Tulane campus, and registration is free.
Highlights this year include a screening of Matt Miller's rarely seen bounce documentary Ya Heard Me?, a conversation between Jason Berry and Hudson Marquez on Professor Longhair, and a conversation and performance by Jason Isbell moderated by David Kunian - not me, as listed on the conference site. On Saturday night, the conference will reconvene at the Rock 'n' Bowl for the American Routes 15th anniversary concert.
I've participated in three previous EMP conferences, and would be a more active part of this year's if scheduling conflicts didn't work against me (I am on the programming committee). At one, I spoke on the economic impact of the television show Treme, and at another I presented a paper on post-Katrina music in New Orleans (a seriously edited version ran in The Village Voice).
To write that piece, I had to work partly from memory because some of the homemade CDs I received felt weighty just have on my desk as they came with the hopes on the parts of their makers that their poor, lumpy little songs might somehow raise money to help after the storm, and that they might somehow find an audience in the process. Most were too banal to be interesting, but one that stayed with me over the years was "Ray Nagin," a song that was cut to coincide with the 2006 mayoral election. Its waddling rhythm and naive indifference to rhyme, meter and key stayed with me long after I'd forgotten who made it.
On the weekend, I discovered that the CD survived the purge, that it was made by Willie Lee Dixon, and it's on a home-burned CD titled The Two Sides of the Re-Creator. It also includes two songs about two baby apes at the Audubon Zoo, and a song boosting for gasohol.
Updated 4:30 p.m.
The registration link was added.