Lil B and a Physicist Share a Stage

Pop Up Magazine and Noise Pop shoot for the cosmos tonight with their new show, The Golden State Record.

How do you get the “rawest rapper alive” on the same stage as a theoretical cosmologist? If you’re Derek Fagerstrom, co-executive editor and founding creative director of Pop Up Magazine, you give local promoter Noise Pop a call.

For those unfamiliar, Pop Up Magazine is a live show that blends journalism, essay, and storytelling in an ephemeral setting where nothing is recorded or documented for posterity. Bringing together folks from brands like This American Life and The New Yorker, as well as comedians, photographers, and musicians, in order to enjoy the magic of a Pop Up Magazine show, you simply have to be there.

Fagerstrom says the idea make a musical installment of Pop Up Magazine started brewing after an event Pop Up held in 2013 in conjunction with the musician Beck’s release of Song Reader, an album that existed solely as sheet music. Partnering with local publisher McSweeney’s, Pop Up brought Beck to Davies Symphony Hall for an evening in which those songs were brought to life with a number of notable special guests. When later discussions turned to creating a new Pop Up show centered around sound, it was a no brainer to get Noise Pop on the phone.

First off, all of us at Pop Up have been huge fans of everything that Noise Pop does,” Fagerstrom says. “We love the Noise Pop festival and we’ve all been to the Treasure Island Music Festival, so we’re just fans of their tastes and their ability to pull off big, amazing events.”

The result of their collaboration is The Golden State Record, a show named in honor of the Voyager spacecraft’s 40th anniversary and the golden record the probe took with it into space. Taking place this Friday, Sept. 30, at Berkeley’s Greek Theater, this new “issue” of Pop Up Magazine will feature both the usual assortment of talented journalists, filmmakers, and radio producers, but also include major figures in the music industry like Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, Thao Nguyen of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Mark Kozelek aka Sun Kill Moon — and yes, rapper Lil B.  

Discussing the curation process of the Golden State Record lineup, Fagerstrom emphasizes how closely both parties worked together.

There was a lot discussion going back and forth about who would make sense or who would be the best fit for this or who we were all excited about.”

Those who attend “The Golden State Record” show can expect speakers like Jon Mooallem, Laurel Braitman, and FADER editor-in-chief Naomi Zeichner to present stories and for the musical guests to perform stand-alone songs, but as is often the case with Pop Up Magazine, there is more. Fagerstrom sounds positively giddy when he alludes to as-yet-to-be-announced collaborations between the former and latter groups that will also occur throughout the show.

We’re excited about the whole show, but it’s creating these wonderful collaborations that I think makes this a singular event, where we’re bringing people together that would never normally share a stage and letting them create something totally unique for one night only.”

Adding to the evening’s uniqueness is its setting. Never before has Pop Up Magazine held a show at a venue with a capacity of 8,500. Describing the feeling of each time he learned a past Pop Up shows had sold out with many still longing for tickets as “soul-crushing,” Fagerstrom feels booking “The Golden State Record” at a substantially larger venue is a way for those who’ve missed issues past to finally get in on the fun.

Another first for Pop Up will be having their show take place underneath the open sky.

“We are excited about doing some storytelling under the stars,” Fagerstrom says. “We’re very excited that it will be outside, and at night, and people will be able to look up and see the city and see the stars. That’s something that’s very romantic to us.”

For those not enticed by the chance to spot constellations while while Lil B regales the crowd they will perhaps be excited to learn that while “The Golden State Record” features plenty of musicians, it’s thesis lies more generally in the exploration of sounds of the California and the West.  That could mean a story inspired by a single sound, something built around a sound people make, or music more generally. It is an open-ended theme, but one that Fagerstrom and his Pop Up Magazine colleagues, along with Noise Pop, have clearly worked diligently to thread together into quite the singular evening.

Asked to distill what most excites him about the show, Fagerstrom says its imagining the discussions that will take backstage amongst a group of people that might otherwise never have a chance to meet. Past Pop Up Magazines have led to collaborations between artists, like when the photographer Richard Misrach met musician Guillermo Galindo at a show and the two went on to create a joint exhibition for the San Jose Museum of Art. It’s an “anything is possible” type of anecdote, and that’s just what Pop Up Magazine has always strived for.

I feel like our audience is smart and sophisticated and curious and open to all sorts of ideas and approaches. That’s where I really find the joy in this, is in having a stage that is shared by Janna Levin, a theoretical cosmologist, and Lil B, world’s rawest rapper. Somebody’s got to do it, right? It should happen, and somebody’s got to do it, so I’m happy that Pop Up and Noise Pop have decided to be the people to finally bring those types of people onstage for one show.”

“The Golden State Record” Friday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m., at the Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Rd. Berkeley. $52-$60, goldenstaterecord.com.

View Comments