Oh, what the New York Times Magazine wrought two years ago when it published the playlist off Beck's iPod. Suddenly there was a whole new format for music-geek dick-measuring contests. Who's got the hippest downloads? Who's got the coolest obscurities? Who's managed to condense the entire Lee "Scratch" Perry discography into a playlist of 25 rock-hard cuts? One of the hottest luxury items in the country, with demand often far exceeding supply, the iPod is spawning new mutations of collector maniasuch as the phenomenon of the "iParty," where iPod owners play amateur DJ the way battle scratchers once lugged around crates of LPs.
After a trip to New York, where he saw the telltale white earbuds on every public conveyance, WRVU dee-jay and Grimey's mainstay Mickey Parks is helping to spread the iPod gospel with iParty Tuesdays at Gulch hotspot BarTwenty3. On the first and third Tuesdays of the month, hosts Parks (a.k.a. iMickey) and Jason "iMoon" Wilkins will host what they call "the analog version of file swapping." Guests can bring their iPods and a pre-selected 30-minute setlist and sign up at the door. Names will be drawn for the night's iDJs, who will receive CDs, software and other goodies.
As far as content, Parks says anything goes, although he's dissuading people from commercial country, CCM, death metal, or "anything else that might clear the room." (Your new challenge: to butt Rebecca St. James up against Cannibal Corpse and make it work.) Acting as celebrity iDJ for the night is Venus Hum vocalist Annette Strean, who probably had one of these things when it was the size of a coffeemaker. There is no cover, and the 'Pods start popping at 9:30 p.m.
♦ Promising "hip-hop under the big top," Atlanta's UniverSoul Circus has made headlines as the nation's only African American-owned circus. The music may be James Brown instead of hurdy-gurdy, and ringmaster Casual Cal may rev up the crowd with a fist-pumping "Yo, yo, yo!" But fans of the sawdust ring will be delighted to find all the usual attractions: acrobats, elephants, lions, dancers, trapeze artists and clowns, accompanied by a band that lays down everything from gospel to R&B.
Now in its 10th year, the circus that has been dubbed "Cirque du Soul" has played to more than 200,000 people across the country, and the show is suitable for the whole family. Look for the bright pastel big top at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, where the circus performs through Monday afternoon. There are three shows Saturday at 12 noon, 4:30 and 8 p.m.; see www.ticketmaster.com for prices and seating information.
♦ In Austin and San Francisco, anime nights are a long-running phenomenon that brings together devotees of Japanese animation for a kind of small-scale convention. The Belcourt tests the idea here Sunday night with two screenings of the 1995 samurai spectacular Ninja Scroll. Belcourt staffers say they've received lots of interest from anime fans over the years about monthly screenings. Nevertheless, they also say that if audiences don't turn out Sunday, this could be the end of the experiment. (Subtitles: Anime lovers, reprazent!) For more information, call 846-3150.
♦ Grimey's makes its big move from Berry Hill to the far side of 8th & Wedgewood over Memorial Day, but you can stop by over the weekend and lighten their crates. Rain or shine, the store's hosting a clearance sale with the added incentive of cold beverages (hello, impulse buys). The "preloved record"store reopens Wednesday at its new location, 1604 8th Avenue S.
♦ Also, while it's not until next weekend, registration is already underway for the Nashville Screenwriters Conference June 4-6 at The Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt. Confirmed guests include screenwriters Brian Helgeland (Mystic River), John August (Big Fish), Anne Rapp (Cookie's Fortune), Leslie Bohem (The Alamo), Ed Solomon (Men in Black), David Self (Road to Perdition), Mike Rich (Radio) and John Lee Hancock (King Arthur), along with a panel of writers and producers from the Law & Order franchise. In addition, the conference's annual Saturday-afternoon "Music and Movies Luncheon" brings together music supervisors and executives for a peek into the pairing of film and soundtrack. Registration for the conference is $150 in advance or $175 at the door. For more information, call 321-0054 or see www.nashscreen.com.