A One-Night Magazine

Like most people, I hate secrets that don’t include me.


So that’s why I’m really, really sorry I can’t tell you much about Pop Up Magazine. But I swear it’s not my fault — the event is designed to be ephemeral, and I just can’t remember everything!


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Pop Up Magazine is an editorial publication in performance form. Rather than relying on print or other means of recorded information, the series seeks to connect with audiences through live communication. “Articles” consist of speakers, films and other creative performances. The first issue premiered in 2009, after founder Douglas McGray thought up the concept as a means to bring people together over shared stories. Since then, no matter how large the venue, tickets to each new issue have consistently sold out in a matter of minutes.


Perhaps this is a testament to our desire to be a part of something completely unique and unreplicable, even if our participation consists of just sitting back and listening. Each issue is performed only once, never to be repeated, and recording of the event is strongly discouraged. It’s one of those things where you just had to be there: there’s no way to relive the experience.


I was lucky enough to attend the Song Reader Issue earlier this week. The night’s focus was on music, centering around Beck’s Song Reader, an interesting project in itself that also explores the theme of live performance. A variety of bands and orchestras shared their renditions of Beck’s sheet music, and in between songs a selection of authors spoke about their most powerful memories involving music. One of my favorite pieces was by music critic, Jessica Hopper, who began by telling us about her passion for pop music, highlighting her love for Swedish pop maven, Robyn. The story ended at a Robyn concert, at which Hopper went into labor while dancing to “Dancing On My Own.”


Pop Up Magazine was quite an experience. It was interesting to go into an event knowing that my only reference of the evening (besides a schedule on the website) after this would be my recollection of it. I could barely take in Jessica Hopper’s story as I struggled to mentally record everything else I had enjoyed and wanted to look up later. As someone with an unpredictably selective memory, I felt more of an urge to pay attention to every single performer, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to reference a transcript or recording of any sort.


One of the tidy little conclusions it is tempting to draw from Pop Up Magazine is about the value of living in the moment, about leaving technology behind in order to connect directly with the people and events around you. However, what I felt more than this was the vastness of how many interesting ideas there are in the world and, in contrast to that, my own limited capacity to remember them. I walked out of the event with a greater appreciation for our ability to record almost anything, and reference it at any time. It was almost a relief to return to the outside world, knowing that I wouldn’t have to remember everything.


That may sound a little over-the-top, but maybe you just had to be there to understand.