Music "conferences" like SXSW seem so dirty to me. Ostensibly created to give unsigned bands a chance to play in front of indie label owners, the event quickly became co-opted by the very music industry it seemed intent on circumventing. I mean, the 2003 SXSW conference featured a TRADE SHOW, for chrissake.
Because I find such gatherings so terribly wretched, I am sad to hear that its dipolar opposite, TapeOpCon, will be moving away from Portland after its appearance here this weekend. The conference, created by the independent recording engineer's porno mag, TapeOp, will focus on workshops and panel discussions on the truly indie subject of OPERATING YOUR OWN STUDIO. There are no panel discussions on "How to impress A&R reps," thank goddess.
TapeOp magazine was founded in 1996 by Larry Crane because he was "interested in reading about how people make off-the-beaten track records, and there was no information available for those type of people." TapeOpCon provides a rare public speaking forum for those people.
"We have so many amazingly talented engineers and musicians on these panels who you don't get to hear anywhere," Larry says. "There are people who have done Nirvana and Pixies records people who have done a large amount of significant indie records over the past 20 years."
He's not kidding. Looking over the list of panelists speaking at this year's conference, I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who is missing from the pantheon of indie-rock knob-twiddlers. A very small sampling of people appearing includes Steve Albini, Ian McKaye, John McEntire, Bob Weston, Jenny Toomey, Calvin Johnson, Mario Caldato, Steve Fisk, and Crane himself. It's really kind of ridiculous.
TapeOpCon 2003 is sure to appease the geeks, what with all its "breakout panels" and "workshops" focusing on specific topics like (sound of thick-rimmed glasses being pushed up acne-covered nose) "Analog tape deck maintenance" and "Why Nuendo doesn't suck: Users share tips & tricks."
"But the main panels," Larry assures me, "are much more general interest. For example, I am moderating the producer panel, but the discussion is not about mic placement, but how to deal with musicians. It will be about being human and making records and being creative with people."
Even if the conference doesn't sound like your bag, don't forget the two conference-related shows happening Friday and Saturday night at Berbati's Pan. After all, when are you going to have another chance to see Stephen Malkmus and Quasi in a venue the size of Berbati's? In any case, you should be thankful that the conference is here at all. It's not often an event so intimately concerned with the creation of musical product can keep its hands clean of corporate mud. AARON BEAM
Portland Art Museum, Friday, May 30 - Sunday, June 1. On-site conference registration: $450 [for info on how to write this off, go to tapeop.com]. Berbati's Pan performances free with TapeOpCon registration badge, otherwise $8 adv, $10 door. May 30¯Quasi, Black Eyed Snakes, The Weisstronauts, Steve Wynn. May 31¯Stephen Malkmus, Radar Brothers, Nedelle, Beauty Pill.
Cinema of the 'Cycle
As if Portland couldn't get any more bike crazy, here comes an entire evening of short movies devoted to nothing but the two-wheeled toys of terror. A benefit for this summer's Multnomah County Bike Fair, the bike film fest (AKA "Filmed by Bike") will be a barrage of cinematic shorts of 10 minutes or less made by local filmmakers. Shorts will range from a cute, quirky film about a woman addicted to her bike, to a quirky, cute gorefest entitled Bloody Bike Bath III, in which carnage and mayhem ensue at the hands (or should I say "pedals"? HA!) of the vehicles in the title. Plus, the local creative arts group Orlo will present its annual montage of bike-related scenes from popular movies.
In addition to this veritable cinematic orgy, there will also be an audience participation element, in which the crowd holds up scorecards in the wake of each short, thereby separating the winners from the losers. Plenty of beer, home-baked desserts, and "pedal-powered smoothies" will be on hand, and the event follows on the heels of critical mass, so you can work up a hunger riding around town, wreaking havoc on America's streets, then head on over to the Fest for some good eats, and good seats. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS
La Palabra Cafe, 4810 NE Garfield, Friday, 8 pm, $3-$10 donation.
While there are some things in this retro-happy world that should never be revived, the ancient art of burlesque ain't one of them. Now's your chance to catch Catherine D. Lish and her cohorts in one of the best national burlesque traveling shows, Burlesquefest, featuring amazing costumes, exotic choreography, bizarro music and, of course, sexy ladies flashing their naughty bits.
While Ms. D. Lish is highly regarded for her saucy strip tease in gigantic props (gilded birdcage, and giant champagne glass!), she will also be joined by the sassy Miss Kitty Crimson, the comedic stylings of the Empire Burlesque Follies, and the aerial gymnastics of Oracle Dance. Musical entertainment will be provided by MC Kitten on the Keys who will be singing racy tunes from yesteryear, and if that ain't enough, DeVotchKa will be on hand performing the soundtrack to Burlesquefest; a dark, yet bouncy melange of guitars, tuba, upright bass, drums and violin.
Pro outfits like this one don't come through town too often, so get yer tickets now and watch those tassels swing, swing, swing! WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside, 224-4400, Sunday, June 1, 8 pm, $22.50 advance, $30 at the door.