Instant experts: Guitars

October 29, 2004

Publicity riff : This promises "an international conference celebrating the culture of the guitar in theory and practice". First day will be listening to live performances, second day will be the papers and homework.

Tuning into the vibe : Think about "I can't get no deconstruction". It's going to be big thoughts on tight jeans. So it's a big up for Deena Weinstein, author of Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology . But this is going to be a pretty darned eclectic event, with an interview with Bill Nelson and papers on Van Halen and Kenyan benga music.

Pre-conference revision : You don't know what benga music is? It's the local East African version of guitar-based pop music. If you're under pressure to appear to know more than this, then retaliate by saying you're looking forward to the paper on Cuban tres music. Don't know what that is either? It's a Cuban and Puerto Rican guitar-type instrument with three double strings. Think about a big fat guy in shades, a zoot suit and a tie with a picture of a tropical island painted on it.

Conference bores : This is a conference full of people resisting the temptation to talk about their music collections. The building will have been fitted with anti- Stairway To Heaven detectors. And anyone who worked in a guitar shop will have to promise not to start conversations with "that Rickenbacker that George Harrison used to play...".

Dress code : The internationally approved dress code for guitar-related events is faded denim. Exceptions will be made for followers of "world music", who will be expected to wear the rough cotton tabard that they bought from a family of shepherds in the Andes. Folk musicians will wear traditional English country fashions, that is to say, a baseball cap and New York Yankees sweatshirt.

Guitarists' joke : What do you call a fat ugly guy who hangs around with musicians? The drummer.

Talking the talk : Try this for a bit of convincing small talk. "Have you seen that they've re-released a Fender Stratocaster from the 1950s? It's sunburst-coloured, with an alder body, maple neck and three solid-coil pick-ups."

Bring your own talking point : Did you know that international politician Bono offered ex-rocker Tony Blair a guitar this summer? Gift rules meant that he had to turn it down. Or how about the new record price set for a guitar, when Eric Clapton's Stratocaster, known affectionately as "Blackie", was sold at auction for more than £500,000.

What are we going to listen to? Delegates are invited to submit topics "addressing critical matters or issues of the practitioner, whether focused on the composition, technology or the social, cultural or historical place of the instrument". So it won't be a bunch of air guitarists pretending to play Bohemian Rhapsody .

Bread heads : The full conference costs £57.50.

How to make an impression : At conferences people read one another's badges before they look at one another's faces. And this conference invites those attending to put their name "as you would like it to appear on the delegate badge". This means you can turn up as a Monster of Rock, the Axeman Cometh or Mr Les Paul. Hilarious.

What not to say : Don't start telling people about your obsessive-compulsive card index system for your Jimi Hendrix memorabilia. And avoid the word "discography" wherever possible.

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