They came, they saw, they schmoozed. Such is the annual ritual known as the New Music Seminar, a convention that invades New York City each summer, bringing together musicians, executives, and journalists. This year, more than 7,000 registrants paid $300-plus apiece to cram into the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers for four days of panel discussions (on ”College Radio Programming,” ”Rap Marketing,” and much more) and four nights of nonstop music (more than 500 signed and unsigned bands played in 31 clubs around town). A few highlights and low points:
Best performances by big names: Nirvana, sounding unusually tight as they played Nevermind oldies, songs from their next album, In Utero, and an acoustic set (complete with cellist). The Henry Rollins Band and the Ramones (hardly ”new music”) also did not disappoint.
Best performances by less-than-household names: L.A. cut-ups Redd Kross, the alternative-rock supergroup Gutterball, and psychobilly wackos the Flat Duo Jets.
Proof that Beavis and Butt-Head are not fictional: During the panel ”The Gun Goes Pop,” a potentially fascinating topic was squandered as two up-and-coming rappers and a member of the hardcore band Murphy’s Law defended their use of gun imagery. Said rapper Tek-9: ”I’m just representing my people.” At least Wayne Kramer of the ’60s band the MC5 looked back with regret on his group’s militant stance: ”That the image is used to sell music is unconscionable.”
Tragic addendum to above panel: Eric Tallman, singer of the Miami band Erotic Exotic, was grazed in the head in an as-yet-unexplained shooting incident at Danceteria. Tallman was not seriously injured, and seminar spokespeople maintain it was unrelated to the convention.
Best joke — we think: ”Rule number one for rap producers — no guns in the studio!” — Public Enemy producer Keith Shocklee at a producers panel
Most imaginative panel: ”When an Artist Dies,” in which real-life managers, record company execs, lawyers, and others gabbed up how they’d deal with the hypothetical death of a rock star. When the ”journalist” (played by David Fricke of Rolling Stone) called the ”publicist” (real-life flack Susan Blond) for details, she shot back, ”Do you see this as a cover?” It doesn’t get any more insightful than that.
Fear of a Boy planet: Public Enemy’s Chuck D refused to have his picture taken with Boy George after their keynote addresses. Spokespeople denied it, but eyewitnesses heard Chuck say he was worried about how the hip-hop community would judge his association with the openly gay British pop singer.
Cattiest-panelists award: On the artists panel, techno kingpin Moby said, ”Rock & roll outlived its usefulness a long time ago. Originally it was this sexy dance music; now it’s just music to listen to while you’re standing around in a bar.” Snapped back Warrior Soul lead singer Kory Clarke, ”And you sample it.”
Everything’s not coming up Rosie: On a rap panel, actress Rosie Perez (right, with rapper Yo Yo) said HBO was not extending her variety show, Society’s Ride, because the cable channel ”didn’t want to be part of the degradation of America’s youth.”
Most honest comment by a panelist: ”We’re basically talentless musicians,” said Bill Manspeaker of Green Jelly at the artists panel. ”We stole it all from Kiss and the Muppets.”
Cool stuff we learned: A CD manufacturer told us it takes three seconds to press a CD. And, Death Row Records says it has a posse out looking for bootleggers of one of its biggest acts, rapper Snoop Doggy Dog.
Most frequently overheard comments: ”Don’t I know you?” ”Do you have a card?” ”Who’s your lawyer?”
Best use of a ”Do Not Disturb” sign: On a Sheraton Hotel room door opposite an Atlantic Records’ party, which featured ”loudest band in the world” the Melvins and a smorgasbord of Skittles and beer.
— Additional reporting by Melissa W. Rawlins, Michele Romero, and Greg Sandow