2017 MoPop Pop Conference: A Preview

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A 2016 Pop Con panel from left to right: Evie Nagy, Greil Marcus, Kembrew McLeod and Sean Nelson

Perhaps the best-kept secret in annual Seattle events is MoPOP’s Pop Conference (previously EMP Pop Conference)—an extravaganza that brings together musicians, critics, historians, writers and fans to MoPOP discuss pop music and the culture that surrounds it. Annually since 2002, heavy-weights in pop music—critics from NPR, Pitchfork and academics from around the country—convene to discuss everything from queer cuture and feminism in pop music to the legacy of Seattle hip-hop.


This year, the conference's theme is “Sign O’ the Times: Music and Politics.” Legendary musician David Byrne (see our interview with him here) will kick things off on Thursday in a keynote discussion with MoPOP’s Artistic Director, Jasen Emmons, about his life, work and critically-acclaimed musical Here Lies Love, now playing at Seattle Repertory Theater.

Popular music has long been integral to movements of social and political change, and this year the subject is further explored with in-depth, featured artist panels including Tanya Tagaq, Meredith Graves (Perfect Pussy, MTV) and former Seattleite Mike Hadreas, of Perfume Genius. Other presentations and topics include: “Musicians in Action,” “The Politics of Sex and Consent,” and “Black Politics in the Regan era.”

Different this year is the the price of admission ($15-$20 for a one day pass), which historically has been free. "The admission fee just helps cover the costs of producing the event. It includes access to all Pop Conference events including the Q&A with David Byrne, four days of complimentary admission to MoPOP galleries, breakfast, and the opening reception. It's a great deal," says Emmons.

The public is encouraged to attend and participate in the panels, roundtable discussions and special events. (Pro-tip: If you hang out in the lounge, you might even get the chance to share a drink with your favorite music journalist!)

MoPop's Pop Conference runs April 20-23. Times and prices vary, more info at mopop.org

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