The Post-Conferences Round-Up

Magnolias blooming off of Washington Square, NYU Campus, during the IASPM/EMP 2012 conference.

Holy crapsticks! I’ve been away from LMGMblog for an inexcusable amount of time. I’ve been quite the busy bee, though. I got a few things published here and there, did some editing on a dissertation chapter that should hopefully turn into a journal article, gave two different papers at two conferences on either side of the Atlantic, and started a new research phase for my current “techno-tourism” project. Oh, and I saw Laurent Garnier play in both Berghain and Panorama Bar last month. I’ve been very busy.

So, here’s a more detailed list of what LMGM’s been up to these past two months, with relevant links and pretty pictures:


Now at IASPM: Doing Nightlife Fieldwork Series

The International Association for the Study of Popular Music - US Chapter

Exciting news, folks! My series, “Doing Nightlife Fieldwork,” has been cross-posted by the IASPM-US blog with the title “Doing Nightlife Research.” That’s the US chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. I’m very excited to be seeing this circulating to a wider audience of popular music scholars, especially because I hope that this will prompt more of us to talk about how we do our research. Maybe there will be enough interest to generate a special issue on the topic…

In any case, here are the links to the series on IASPM-US Blog:

Doing Nightlife Research I: Introduction

Doing Nightlife Research II: Going Out

Doing Nightlife Research III: Interviewing

Doing Nightlife Fieldwork III: Interviewing

Entrance to the Larco Museum of Pre-Columbian History in Lima, Peru. Why should all these pictures be party pictures, anyway?

Keep reading, folks! This is the last installment of the series on fieldwork methodology for ethnographic research in nightlife scenes—in other words, how to study a dance music scene without getting in the way. Last Thursday, I posted a brief list of problems that nightlife scenes pose to conventional modes of ethnographic research. Unsurprisingly, most of those issues had to do with the circumstances of EDM (electronic dance music) events themselves; and so, on the next day I wrote another article on “going out” for fieldwork, mostly detailing my own methods and giving a few bits of general advice. Todays post (and the final one in this series) covers a more conventional but no less important aspect of music ethnography: interviews! While the process of actually interviewing someone off-site (i.e., away from an EDM event) is pretty similar to other interviewing situations, there are some important things to keep in mind when (more…)

Doing Nightlife Fieldwork II: Going Out

Mutek, Montréal, 2008

Luckily, I managed to find a bit of time today to write this second part to this series, so I won’t be saddled with guilt about making promises to write more on my blog and then not fulfilling them. Yay productivity! So, to review: yesterday I wrote “Doing Nightlife Fieldwork,” which claimed that there wasn’t enough helpful writing out there on how to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in nightlife scenes. It’s a problem, I think, that we don’t at least have a shared idea of what “best practices” would look like; this is an important ethical and institutional issue for EDM studies, for sure. I listed a few ways that nightlife settings throw a wrench in conventional ethnographic methods and invited other folks to write in the comments and/or write response-posts on their own blogs. The comments have already been great, and there’s talk of a few of my EDM-scholars-with-blogs buddies preparing their own posts. Today, I’m going to focus on one of the main elements of music ethnography: attending music events and engaging in participant-observation. I’ll describe how (more…)

Doing Nightlife Fieldwork

Kiki and Silversurfer @ Le Rex, Paris, 2007

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a book entitled, “How To Do Fieldwork in Nightclubs and Bars?”  Certainly, when I was working on my own dissertation, I wished that other nightlife-researchers would be more open about their methods and more generous about giving advice to new ethnographers of nocturnal scenes. To be honest, a fair number of nightlife-researchers have published some details about their methods; it’s usually tucked away discreetly in an appendix or in a section of the introductory chapter. But these brief methodological reflections often lack too much detail to be instructive and—frankly—I’m not always satisfied with their solutions to the problems of nightlife fieldwork. Despite all my griping, I have been guided by the methods of some nightlife researchers, such as Fiona Buckland in her book Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World-Making (2002).

In any case, very few nightlife ethnographers actually describe their research methods in detail, even though the circumstances of nocturnal scenes often pose difficult challenges to conventional fieldwork methods. Just a few of these are: (more…)

Happy Calendar-Reboot!

Despite having just flown back from Canada two days ago, I’m already back into the nocturnal rhythms of Berlin. In fact, I used jet-lag to my advantage: I got home in the early morning, slept during the day, got up at 8pm, and then got ready for a night at Watergate (the Vakant + Dumb Unit label night). And then, the same routine the next day for the Final Friday night at Panorama Bar, with Margaret Dygas, Cassy, and Dinky (and Matthew Styles). Now, I’m making use of a brief pocket of quiet while my houseguest sleeps to post this message. In a couple of hours, we’ll have dinner, count down to midnight at a friend’s house, nap until 6am, and then head out to the insane Silvester party at Berghain/Panoramabar. The line-up features primarily the nightclub’s resident DJs, but there are also a few guests (e.g., Soundstream, Deetron) and even a few surprises (i.e., Andrew Butler of Hercules and Love Affair). The whole thing runs from Saturday midnight until late Monday, and will require a couple of cycles of dance+go home+nap+eat+dance.

It’s been interesting to see how the massive influx of tourists has impacted Berlin’s nightlife in these past days. Thursday night at Watergate involved a ridiculously long line (for a Thursday) and a crowd that seemed to be primarily populated by tourists (including tourists from other parts of Germany, mind you). I made the acquaintance of two guys from Munich, one from Beirut (Lebanon), one from Chile, and several American ex-pats (now living in Berlin). And, of course, there were French- and Italian-speakers everywhere, mostly making themselves noticeable because they can’t seem to resist the temptation to try to jump the queue for the door, the bathrooms, the bar, etc.

Friday at Panoramabar was similar but different: there were tons of tourists in the queue for the door, but proportionally less of them seemed to make it in—or, rather, only certain kinds of tourists seemed to make it past the bouncers. The queue was insanely long when we arrived around 1am (which was admittedly far too early for Berliners and part of the reason why the proportion of tourists was so high), running all the way back to where the taxis were. The wait would probably be 1.5-2 hours. I was with 3 friends, so I left two of them at the back of the line, and then I went to the door with one of my friends and approached the door. Since I’ve been something of a regular at the place, I was relatively confident that I could walk directly to the door and the doormen would wave me in, but I was less certain that I could bring in 3 other people. So, my strategy was to approach the door with one other person, and then ask if I could bring in two more people. As I expected, the doorman Andrej saw me and waved me in. “A quick question,” I said in German, “I still have two other friends stuck at the back of the line. Could I bring them in with me?” “Only two?” he said, sternly. “Yes, yes. Just two more people.” “OK, fine.” And, with that, I ran back to the far end of the line, picked up my other 2 friends, and went in. The rest of the night was too long and crazy to relate here, but suffice it to say that I met a lot of locals, non-local Germans, local ex-pats, frequent visitors, and tourists.

OK, time to go gird my loins! I have a lot of hard work ahead of me.

The Techno Jet-Set: Tourism, Mobility, and Money in Berlin’s EDM Scenes

Yes, there's a company dedicated to techno tourism. In fact, there are several. This was taken at the FLY BerMuDa party in early November, 2011

As I was conducting an interview a couple of nights ago, I realized that I didn’t have a publicly-accessible and easily-readable description of my current research project on so-called “techno-tourism.” If you read my article on the Spreepark party in Resident Advisor last fall, you probably already have an idea of what this project is about: the waves of travelers coming to Berlin for its nightlife scenes, many of them enjoying a kind of international mobility that used to be the exclusive domain of wealthy “jet-set” elites. The framing of my project is pretty much directly indebted to Tobias Rapp’s book (Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno und the Easy Jet Set, 2010) and his coining of the word “EasyJetSet,” which highlights the similarities to and differences from an earlier era of luxury “jet-setter” tourism.

There’s a lot to be said about this project, about the earlier research that has been done on tourism, the economic and social factors, and so on, but here’s a concise summary of the most relevant points. (more…)

Chapter 5. Smooth Experience/Rough Experience: Coming Undone and the Night Out

Tony Rohr and Elon at the Volatl/Clink party at DEMF 2010

Grüße aus Berlin! I made it back to Berlin after the AAA conference in Montréal, and lately I’ve been something of a shut-in, mostly shunning the nightclubs (and thus neglecting my fieldwork, in a sense) and devoting my time to catching up with job applications, fellowship applications, conference papers, and so on. Nonetheless, I’m still committed to finishing this series of chapter-by-chapter summaries of my dissertation. More than halfway there!

(NOTE: This is the eighth installment of a series where I summarize my dissertation through blog posts. You can find the inaugural post here.)

My main argument in this chapter might sound a bit obvious to people who do any kind of nocturnal partying, but at the same time it’s surprisingly hard to describe and interpret in a coherent way. Essentially, I argue that, when most people go out—or plan on going out, or remember going out—their notion of what makes “a good night out” seems to involve the combination of contrary desires for (more…)

Chapter 4. Thickening Something: Music, Affect, and the Sense of the Social

Detroit Electronic Music Festival, 2010

Detroit Electronic Music Festival, 2010

Okay. It’s been nearly three months since my dissertation defense, two months since my graduation, and two weeks since I moved to Berlin. Things have been crazy busy, but I’m still determined to finish this series of chapter summaries. It’s a surprising amount of work to summarize this gigantic, sprawling thing as a series of “plain English” blog posts. Anyway, here comes the affect!

(NOTE: This is the seventh installment of a series where I summarize my dissertation through blog posts. You can find the inaugural post here.)

This chapter is about tracing the connections between intensity and togetherness. The full version of this chapter wades into a fair bit of theory, but I’ll try to keep things streamlined here. Essentially, this is how I go about tracing the connections: (more…)

Build an Archive: Drag Queens and Young Men

“Pass This On” by The Knife. A (rather muscular) drag queen singing in what looks like a Bavarian Football club.

Folks, I need your help. I’ve been seeing a trend in indie and eletro-ish music videos towards scenarios that involve ostensibly “straight” young men and older drag queens, usually involving some sort of wordless, eye-to-eye communication that causes some sort of transformation or breaking of boundaries. I want to figure out what this is about and why this is a popular theme right now, but first I need to build an archive of them. You can help me by posting links to music videos in the comments (or emailing me if you prefer), and then I’ll update this blog post and add your suggestions.

“Pass This On” by The Knife. The young man who is drawn to her.

Here’s what I have so far: (more…)