Electric guitar rocks BGSU conference

BOWLING GREEN, O.—The electric guitar will be the rock star at the “Electric Guitar in Popular Culture” conference at Bowling Green State University March 27-28.  

Hosted in part by BGSU’s Department of Popular Culture, the conference will consist of a combination of scholarly presentations and performances.

“During the two-day forum, academics, professionals, performers, hobbyists and fans will come together to highlight and celebrate this iconic instrument,” said conference co-organizer Dr. Matthew Donahue, a lecturer in the Department of Popular Culture.

“Both popular culture and popular music are linked to the electric guitar,” Donahue said. “Topics such as material culture, visual arts, cultural studies, American culture studies, history, ethnic studies and gender studies have a connection to the electric guitar.”

The scholarly presentations and some of the musical performances will be held in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union; the evening musical performances will be at Grounds for Thought, a coffee shop and cultural hub in downtown Bowling Green, Ohio.

Among the speakers are Martin Popoff, former editor in chief of Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles; Steve Waksman, professor of music and American studies at Smith College, and Ken Haas, general manager for Reverend Guitars.

Popoff, who will present “Vulgar Display of Power: Six-String Milestones in the Creation of Heavy Metal Guitar,” has written for Revolver, Guitar World, Goldmine, Record Collector and many websites. He has written nearly 8,000 record reviews across all genres; authored 49 books on hard rock, heavy metal, classic rock and record collecting, and worked on the award-winning documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” and VH1 Classic’s “Metal Evolution.”

Waksman, who has turned a lifelong involvement with music as a player and listener into a career as a rock and pop scholar, will present “Guitar Studies: Some Thoughts About a Field That Doesn't Really Exist (Yet).” His publications include “Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience” and “This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk.” Waksman was the keynote speaker at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters event honoring the legacy of guitarist and inventor Les Paul.

Haas’ presentation will be “Stories from the Scaffolding of Rock and Roll.“ He started with Reverend Guitars demonstrating guitars at trade shows and was promoted to head of sales in 2007. In 2010, he was named general manager, in charge of sales, artist relations and trade shows. He has been playing guitar since 1981 and currently plays in the Polka Floyd Show and plays steel guitar in the Zimmerman Twins.

Some of the panel topics include “The Electric Guitar in Popular Culture,” “The Electric Guitar in Rock Subcultures,” “Interpretations of the Electric Guitar in African Nations,” “Icons of the Electric Guitar,” “Gender, Sexuality, and the Electric Guitar,” and “The Culture and Aesthetics of the Electric Guitar in Rock Music.”

“A highlight of the conference will be the musical performances from some outstanding musicians,” said Donahue. On the performance schedule is living legend “Little Axe” Skip McDonald (world blues), Kelly Richey (blues), BGSU’s own Chris Buzzelli (jazz), Chuck Stohl (hard rock and heavy metal), Kimi Kärki (folk) and Donahue (surf/punk)

The entire conference, including the presentations and musical performances, is free and open to the public, thanks in part to the Ohio Humanities Council, which provided a grant for the event. Funding was also provided through BGSU’s Department of Popular Culture, School of Cultural and Critical Studies, Stoddard- O’Neill Endowment for Studies in Popular Culture, Ethnic Cultural Arts Program, Popular Culture Scholars Association and Arts Village.

For a complete conference schedule and registration information, visit scholarworks.bgsu.edu/egpc.