Christgau observes that it can't be a good sign for the conference's commercial status that, aside from a New York Press kitchen magnet and an inexplicable Max Weinberg 7 button and a few label-sampler CDs, the tote bag of promotional goodies handed out at registration contains mostly CMJ product. This hadn't occurred to me. Guess that's why he's the Dean.
Irving Plaza, Friday, October 20, 9:30 p.m.
They aren't taking any more badges at the Grandaddy show. Ever prepared for such emergencies, Christgau has a ticket--but the rest of us are out of luck. Other friends drift by, including a guy from Minneapolis named Chuck whom I've met at several parties over the years without ever discovering his last name. He isn't on the radio, doesn't write, isn't in a band--I still have no idea why he's here.
Christgau looks back at us one last time and disappears inside.
The rest of us spend 20 minutes debating whether to head out to CBGB to see the Ass Ponys. A bouncer emerges and, with routine belligerence, commands us not to block the sidewalk.
CBGB, Friday, October 20, 10:30 p.m.
Scrawled sign taped on CBGB's door: "The Asspony show is cancelled."
Mercury Lounge, Friday, October 20, 11:30 p.m.
No more badges are being accepted, and I refuse to pay 15 bucks to see the goddamn Pernice Brothers.
Saturday, October 21, Arlene Grocery, 12:00 a.m.
Bad indie rock.
Saturday, October 21, Elbow Room, 12:30 a.m.
More bad indie rock.
Saturday, October 21, Living Room, 1:00 a.m.
No more bad indie rock. Please, God, no more bad indie rock.
Saturday, October 21, 1:30 p.m.
I narrowly miss a panel discussion on "Journalism in the 21st Century" chaired by the editorial director of CDNow, titled "Writing on the Wall." I run across the woman from the college station in Ohio I'd met earlier, who tells me it was an informative session. I joke that they should have called the seminar "Click Here to Buy." She doesn't get it, waves to a friend of hers across the concourse, and is gone.
Unfortunately, I'm on time for "You Can Dance If You Want To," a techno discussion that focuses almost entirely on how DJs can get paid. When it becomes evident that no one will be addressing the most pertinent question--why is it that every time I go to a club, the big name DJ at the top of the flyer invariably doesn't show?--I go back to wandering.
...and wind up at the inscrutably titled "Always and Forever: Hip Hop Examines Itself and Its Future." After an afternoon of blathering bizzers, I will be forever grateful to panelist Schoolly D, who, when confronted about the persistence of hip hop's often piggish machismo, offers up just about the only pearl of wisdom I will hear all weekend: "If I got a big dick, I'm gonna talk about it."
S.O.B.'s, Sunday, October 22, 10:00 p.m.
If anyone at S.O.B.'s has a big dick, he's keeping quiet about it. It's the last night of the Marathon, and the comfortably crowded club possesses an understated "exotic" vibe (although the oversize plastic palm tree I lean against is a bit much, as are the "real" bumps in its simulated bark). There's been some excitement outside. The guy behind me in line tried to smuggle a Tupperware container of flour into the venue. The doorman tasted it carefully. Yep, flour, all right. No one can explain this incident. The container is confiscated.
Onstage is All Natural, a Chicago duo who'd left me largely unimpressed on disc. But MC Capital D reels off a breathtaking freestyle than includes lines like "You're unworthy/Like Will when he dicks Jada." Then, after plugging the group's new disc, D promptly announces that he's leaving the indie-rap game for Islam.
I see Slug across the room. He says, "I hear you ripped my record in your review."
Our lanky hometown rapper has a way of greeting you with a half-smirk in his eyes that his mouth doesn't quite match. He'll let you know you've been acknowledged, the expression seems to say, but you've got to decide for yourself whether he's happy to see you. His initial comment suggests he isn't.
I explain away my supposed "rip" on the new Atmosphere album in City Pages (Revolutions Per Minute, October 18): Slug's got a stone classic in him, I insist, and I'm waiting for it.
And, uh, by the way, any chance he could help get a couple of my friends outside into the show? Slug shrugs at my explanation and obligingly pops out the door to see what he can do. I feel like a war protester being stared down by a vet. Okay, not quite. It's not that I don't stand by my review of Atmosphere: Bunch of great tracks, but oodles of filler too--and I can't wait for the real album. But here, as Slug and I are two Minneapolitans in the Big City, I feel like I've betrayed the team.
Up onstage, the host shouts about upcoming acts, each of which draws eager shouts. But when he gets to "At-mo-sphere," the crowd, as they say, goes wild. It occurs to me for the first time that Slug is, well, sort of famous.