People have been prognosticating the death—or, worse, the irrelevance—of rock criticism since the day the first rock critic put pen to paper. Hell, I freely admit that I'd rather read a dozen romance novels in a row than be forced to read one entire issue of Rolling Stone cover to cover. Anyone who can churn out 1,000 very serious words on Wings as a symbol of late-1970s malaise should be taken behind the woodshed and shot.
But! It's pretty hard to love music and not be excited by Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series. Yes, it's writing about music, but each little book in the series is about a single album, and that laser-beam focus makes all the difference. Combined with the fact that the series has been around long enough now that the album choices are wildly eclectic—Let It Be, yes, but also Use Your Illusion I and II, Songs in the Key of Life, Endtroducing..., and Rid of Me—and you get the kind of irresistible experience that appeals to hardcore music nerds and casual listeners alike.
So you understand why you should read the books, but why in the name of the Sweet Little Baby Jesus should you spend your precious Bumbershoot time at a book reading? Granted, the idea of listening to a bunch of writers talk about music sounds pretty painful, but the fact that this is a reading and listening party means that someone actually gets it: There's no point to people talking about music unless you can actually hear the music they're talking about. It's shocking that, after 50 years of writing about rock, it's not standard procedure to combine a music-criticism reading with a listening party. The readers include Michaelangelo Matos, author of the Sign o' the Times entry in the series, and Yeti magazine's Mike McGonigal, discussing Loveless. Don't go because it's rock criticism and you should; go because it's brilliant writing and brilliant music and you want to go.