The Barnes & Noble series Upstairs at the Square is a live made-for-podcast “show where writers and music mix” (that’s the tagline, seriously)–and if you haven’t been, they tend to be as freewheeling as a city council meeting. Stationed up a bunch of escalators in the “flagship” Union Square B&N, the free events are heavily branded panels that pop off with a schoolmarm’s punctuality, pairing “diverse” authors (Nell Freudenberger, Alaa al Aswany, Dennis Lehane) with the kind of inoffensive adult-contemporary singer-songwriters whose CDs might end up on indefinite repeat in a suburban-cool, middle-aged mom’s Volkswagon: Josh Rouse, Aimee Mann, Rachael Yamagata. There’re been notable exceptions and excellent moments, like when ex-Arab Strap mope Aidan Moffat teared up onstage when he debuted “Atheist Lament,” an solemn tribute to his departed grandfather, or when the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, introduced stolidly by host Katherine Lanpher as a “literary lion,” performed a short set of rare acoustic tunes. But in general, these events straight-laced song-and-reading sessions with onstage flower arrangements and emptied Starbucks cups as foot-rests.
So it’s sort of unbelievable that next Tuesday, Upstairs at the Square welcomes noise-punk nomads Japanther (!) to join “weird fiction pioneer” China Mieville for the next episode. This is sorta like Ian and Matt playing for an English teachers’ conference–not unthinkable, as the duo’s recent fundraiser to save the Automotive High School’s spring musical from budget-cut travails shows–but still fairly surprising. Actually having trouble imagining how this will exactly go down. Pratt grads sneaking gulps of King Cobra from their backpacks? A pit started in the front row? A crowd-surfing Katherine Lanpher? Please do send pics.