Earlier this summer, Noise Pop announced a relatively cryptic event with Pop-Up Magazine to take place at Berkeley’s esteemed Greek Theatre. Noise Pop’s collaborative event–named the California Golden Record–proclaimed the night would offer a “multimedia show, featuring unforgettable performances and unique collaborations by musicians, writers, filmmakers, radio producers, and artists”. Thematically, the content “celebrates and explores the sounds, ideas, and culture of California and the West today.” Additionally, the event’s namesake was derived by a project launched by NASA and Carl Sagan in 1977.
While the initial release did not include specific performers, Noise Pop later revealed an impressive lineup (even amidst the loaded fall schedule for the Greek). The California oriented bill included Lil B (Berkeley), Thao Nguyen (San Francisco), Bethany Cosentino (Los Angeles), Nosaj Thing (Los Angeles), and Georgia Anne Muldrow (Los Angeles), among others.
Friday evening made for a refreshing way to go into the Greek without expectation. The audience was informed GCR would essentially be a “live magazine show” with none of it posted online. The track based format brought out Nosaj Thing paired against an elaborate animation. Additional tracks featured storytelling interspersed.
We learned about the power of music including segments on athletes, writers, artists, and doctors. Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast) took stage to share “a song about California” (Best Coast’s “The Only Place”). Additional chapters included a segment on Oakland PD videos and a Stanford study on linguistics and people’s actions/intentions. Ads during the show included a SquareSpace bit on David Lynch and John Malkovich’s new series. As another track dove into the science of breakup tracks and their effect on us followed by Shamir performing a solo piano track he’d penned years ago, there was a sense of confusion on what the night’s narrative or overall theme was.
As the next tracks featured reflection seismology technology’s use to find oil, a surreal interview with Lil B about tweets, condos and nature preservation, that sense of confusion only heightened. There was a beautiful tribute to Alice Coltrane, her story and legacy which Georgia Anne Muldrow joined for. This seemed to refocus the evening on the California theme. But then Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Zoleleck (from Ohio) proceeded to sing a sprawling nine minute song about defecting to Portugal in the event of a Trump presidency. Any coherency on the evening’s theme seemed to fade here, and I overheard much confusion amidst a trip to the bathroom. Thao Nguyen wrapped up the nigh with a cover of Wilco & Billy Bragg’s “California Stars”, which at least brought things back to the California theme.
While GCR offered a unique pop-up magazine format and shook off the traditional audience expectations, an opinion I felt and heard echoed again and again was confusion. There were elements of the aforementioned California and NASA theme. But bits involving Kozelek, Puerto Rican frogs, Iggy Pop’s ad and the like left people reeling for consistency. Likewise, many people who shelled out for the event mentioned their disappointment with the evening. It’s not necessarily on Noise Pop or Pop Up Magazine to manage audience’s expectations or guide them through the experience. However, listening to the opinions of those who paid $50 or more for the event would be advantageous.