Pieced together from rare archival footage, a young fan remembers his first concert experience. As with all things Leather Space Man, it goes off the rails almost immediately.

Gary Shteyngart on his new memoir, Little Failure.  Charles Montgomery on what makes a city happy. And hardcore band Perfect Pussy talk literary influences.

When the historians of Punjab next gather to write the history of that proud people, they will have to include a new warrior king in the annals: Anthony Bourdain. After all, when Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series kicked off its newest season with a visit to the North Indian state, it united the Punjabi diaspora like few things before it.

I may be exaggerating, but by less than you might imagine. Bourdain’s show created an unmistakable buzz amongst Punjabis in North America. Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp conversations lit up in pre-show anticipation and post-show analysis. And could you blame us? Instead of the usual generic vision of India, here, finally, was Punjab itself: its rural roads, its Golden Temple, its boisterous sounds, its dhaba roadside restaurants.

Beyond a certain level of empyrean Beyoncé-scaled fame, pop stars are often obliged to field dumb questions from some media institution or another—especially in a music market like this one, where the #2 American album last week sold a record-low 30,000 copies, or 0.0001% of the U.S. population. So it was that Kelis had the opportunity to politely shade a New York Times Magazine reporter with responses like, “I’ve been doing music since 1998, so obviously longevity is not an issue for me,” or, “I don’t know what Paul Newman’s situation is, but I make sauce” (she started producing a whole line).

New John Jeremiah Sullivan alert, y’all: in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, “on the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.”

If Jesus were alive today and hanging out in upscale neighbourhoods, people would probably call the cops on him.

“This really isn’t a book to celebrate, is it?” At the National PostMark Medley talks to Miriam Toews about her new bookAll My Puny Sorrows, and the painful place from which it came.

Sean Michaels’s debut novel Us Conductors freely fictionalizes the life of Lev Termen, who was an innovator in espionage technology, the first person to demonstrate interlaced video, an expat entrepreneur, a possible Soviet agent, creator of the proto-drum-machine Rhythmicon with Henry Cowell, and a prisoner of the gulag. (Michaels’s version, unencumbered by fact, also recounts his kung fu training.)

This Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, which, if played correctly, is an excellent opportunity to write about what Kurt Cobain meant to you. Here are some tips to guide you on your path to Nirvana thinkpiece nirvana.

When Norwegian dance producer Terje Olsen releases his debut LP It’s Album Time on April 8, you’ll find most of the original tracks with which he’s gained a wider audience recently, sounding like a miniature fleet of spaceships taking off. In keeping with that gleefully ridiculous album cover, there’s a certain louche lounge atmosphere, as if he recorded it exclusively at European Union beach resorts.

For the preceding decade, however, under monikers like Pitbullterje or, as he’s mostly known now, Todd Terje (a reference to the house music legend), he captivated Soundcloud-swapping obsessives by releasing numerous remixes and edits, from Earth, Wind & Fire to Alicia Keys. Terje mastered an element that’s been central to dance edits ever since Tom Moulton pioneered the practice for the earliest discotheques: extending the running time to new dimensions, dropping strings or voices from the mix and then bringing them back again, so that a groove might distend bodies through time. And since he’s put out little but original productions for the past few years, here is a wistful primer of favourite Terje jams, borrowed and self-made.

“There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself.” Ta-Nehisi Coates goes hammer in response to a Jonathan Chait response to an earlier Coates column.

Dave Brockie, better known as GWAR lead singer Oderus Urungus, has died at the age of 50.

At Greenfriar, Natasha Vargas-Cooper on heading out into nature to listen to literature.

The 2014 Name of the Year bracket is upon us. Curvaceous Bass is a strong top seed, but you underestimate Radiance Ham and Shamus Beaglehole at your own peril.

Civil War obsessives wonder what would’ve happened if some tactical maneuver at Vicksburg went another way; pop nerds can indulge themselves in alternate histories while listening to Neneh Cherry.

Unfairly reduced to the indelible 1988 hit “Buffalo Stance” in North America (she maintained a higher profile elsewhere through the 1990s), her initial moment suggested a form of pop stardom that only really caught on over the past decade: at home in a club and conversant with the art world, able to flip from singing to MCing between breaths, cosmopolitan by inclination. Cherry wasn’t the only kid who dropped out of high school to sing backup for a band like the Slits, but the rest of them didn’t have a gifted jazz musician in the family. M.I.A. obviously took notes. Then, after striking a pose of cocky poise, she spent the next twenty years wandering away from it, leaving her silhouette to hang in the air as a possible outline.

Who is America’s most influential living fiction writer? If forced to choose, Flavorwire literary editor and Hazlitt contributor Jason Diamond goes with Tree of Smoke and Jesus’ Son author Denis Johnson, whom he calls “the best chronicler of Americans fucking up in a fucked-up America, [and who] writes his characters with a depth of insight that few authors can muster.” (Natasha Vargas-Cooper recently visited the collection of Johnson memorabilia at the Harry Ransom Center.)

What it’s like to cover every murder in Los Angeles County.

When the Drive-By Truckers called their 1998 debut album Gangstabilly, it wasn’t just a cute portmanteau, even if their raucous country-rock shares little aesthetic affinity with hip-hop. There was a recognition that these once-subcultural genres had other things in common: a fixation on outlaw tales (whether lionizing or harrowing), and the kind of sustained character studies you don’t often hear in pop. “Birthday Boy,” from 2010’s The Big To-Do, made a businesslike stripper sound like one of the riders in a Western: “‘Which one’s the birthday boy?’ she said / I haven’t got all night / What your momma name you? You can call me what you like.”

The sheer number of songwriters rotating through the band, too, combined with its extraordinary consistency over ten albums, allowed for some subtle variations in approach—guitarist Patterson Hood (son of the prolific Muscle Shoals session player David H.) tends to contribute short stories about rough lives, while co-founder Mike Cooley prefers more allusive and abstracted lyrics.

You’ve booked your tickets, packed your bags, forgotten your sense of propriety, and are only a week late: you’re off to Austin for South by Southwest! But with so much music to see, it can be overwhelming to know which shows to hit and which ones to skip. Luckily, we’ve done the grunt work for you. Here’s our curated guide to this weekend’s hottest shows and events at SXSW 2014.

When it works—think Beyoncé and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Blur and Martin Amis, Nirvana and Patrick Süskind—the intersection of pop music and literature can be a wonderful, mutually beneficial thing.

The lawyers escorted Justin B. to a small windowless room. Everything there was made of wood, walls, ceiling and floor, hammered clumsily into place. The television was also made of wood. As B. looked around this wretched chamber, his pompadour wilted. One of the lawyers leaned over the desk where he sat and regarded him evenly. “Do you know Selena Gomez?” he asked. B. did not answer. The lawyer went on for some time, not even waiting for a response: “Do you know Selena Gomez? Do you know Selena Gomez?” B., who suffered from an anxious disposition, felt this was all quite impossible. Finally he raised a trembling hand and pleaded: “Don’t—don’t ask me. Please don’t ask… don’t ask me about her again.”

The lawyer paused, tugging on his neatly trimmed beard. “I am a trustee of this court,” he offered mildly, “and we all know you have recognized its authority.” B. sank into his chair, eyes closed, and gathered his floral Dries Van Noten jacket about him. “Indeed, to deny that would only confirm your provisionally established guilt. Now,” the lawyer continued, “do you remember being in Australia?” Shaking, B. stammered: “I-I don’t know if I’ve been to Australia. Have I been to Australia?” He flung his strangely buff form across the desk in a heap, growing more and more agitated. He could not recall visiting the nation at issue, but he felt that he had long dwelt in an abstracted, metaphysical Australia, a dreamtime, as it were. B. lifted up a finger with abject regret and asked: “What kind of question is that?”

Victim in Pain, the debut album by New York’s Agnostic Front, turns 30 this year. At just over 15 minutes, it’s the perfect product of a fraught time and perilous place—an essential document of a Lower East Side that is, for better or worse, unrecognizable today.

At this Sunday’s Academy Awards, Pharrell could become the first musician to win an Oscar for Best Original Song while atop the Billboard charts. The Academy and the People tend to diverge on greatness in music—whose taste is superior? We investigate.

During my first visit to New York City, I emerged from the subway near Lincoln Center—it was staging a John Adams opera—to find the intersection stilled. “Show’s over, folks, nothing to see here,” a police officer barked, waving his arms at dozens of people who disagreed; beyond him, somebody lay unmoving beneath an overturned van.

A block or so farther north, I walked past the musician St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, who’d played up here only days before. I wanted to say “you were great in Toronto last week, Annie!” but a heat wave had begun since then: while she looked chic in a sundress and shades, I was a jorts-impaired apparition, shambling sweaty. So I let her and her friend move on towards another glancing encounter with death. Listening to the new St. Vincent album last week, also called St. Vincent, that afternoon seemed like a fluke example of her taste for jarring dissonance—stylish allure, in this music, being the weapon of choice as often as brute force.

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