Pop-Up Magazine has become the It event for the Bay Area's hipster intelligentsia, particularly those adept at hitting refresh during the 15-minute window before tickets sell out online. Monday night's tenth incarnation of the live magazine was a special collaboration between Pop-Up, McSweeney's, and the musician Beck.
The one-night only event has grown out of its original Brava Theater venue and now fills Davies Symphony Hall. With no print (or digitized) footprint, Pop-Up Magazine thrives on being live, impermanent, and offline, "We like the idea that a super wired community might unplug for a couple of hours," said editor Douglas McGray.
Monday night's "Song Reader Issue" was inspired by Beck's Song Reader, a collection of sheet music written by Beck and published by McSweeneys. The print edition of Song Reader is a beautiful assemblage of neo-vintage sheet music for songs written by Beck, to be performed by anyone but him. These songs don't appear on any Beck album and they have no definitive rendition. It's a project in musical populism that invites folks to play it themselves.
The latest Pop Up Magazine issue featured, among other things, musical performances from Song Reader. As Beck explained, Song Reader is "an album that could only be heard by playing the songs." With its evocative, old-timey cover art by artists like Marcel Dzama, the volume harkens back to a time before people purchased recordings, be they LPs, CDs or iTunes files. And yet it's a project that has also been enhanced by technology; musicians can post their own performances of the songs to Song Reader's official website.
Douglas McGray said Beck's project and the Pop-Up concept are kindred spirits. "He's making something that's kind of like an album that's actually a book, and we're doing something that's kind of like a magazine but it's actually a show," said McGray. "There's a natural affinity." Pop-Up doesn't usually do theme issues, but McGray said he wanted to use Song Reader as a jumping-off point for "a really broad eclectic investigation of music, how it works and how it matters to us and what it means in our lives and where its come from."