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Chef Gary Stevenson’s Reflection on U2’s American Pie

Please join us for a live cook-along event as part of the 2020 U2 Conference. Our American Pie session will be on Saturday at 3:30pm EST. Registration is here. A recipe for preparing in advance to make Gary Stevenson’s U2’s American Pie is here.

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Nothing says America like Apple Pie and Fried Chicken. Combining those two classic American dishes would be all you would need to capture the culinary soul of America. But just like U2’s music, there is much more to this dish than meets the eye. Inside it’s America.

U2’s American Pie: A Culinary Reflection

If the long messy journey of what we now know as America becoming America had a flavour, what would it taste like? What would it look like? What dish would capture the complex and diverse Soul of America? I was inspired to ask these questions soon after Scott Calhoun invited me to design a dish that communicated the struggle of America becoming America for the upcoming U2 Conference.

I love a challenge and this has to have been one of the most conceptually challenging dishes I have ever created. How do you communicate the wonderful yet messy struggle of America becoming America through one dish? Especially when you are not even American? 

As a Canadian, I have a unique perspective of my neighbors to the south. We are greatly influenced by American culture, American media, American food and dare I mention American politics! As a Canadian I do share many of the same values as my American friends, such as the idea of a free, democratic society with liberty and justice for all. But over the past few years, much of what I have witnessed through the American news has made me cringe. After 244 years, America (much like other free democratic countries) is still struggling to find itself. In many ways, America still hasn’t found what it’s looking for.

This struggle is what U2 sings about in many of their songs such as Bullet the Blue Sky, New York, Get out of your own way, and American Soul to name just a few. U2 loves the idea of America, but they are also not shy in calling out the injustices that the world witnesses in America. Lately those injustices seem to be almost daily.

This dish is not meant to critique America, as the idea of America is something that all humans can identify with. It’s a culinary reflection on the struggle and the pain of social and racial injustice that continues to haunt America, and the drive of Americans to uphold the ultimate goal of America: liberty and justice for ALL! 

This explanation for this recipe might seem a bit long, but this is the only way I can explain the true inspiration behind this dish as it has many layers, flavors and stories to tell us, just like U2’s music, and just like America.

Scott and I had a Zoom meeting and discussed a number of U2 songs inspired by America as we searched for some culinary clues within U2’s American canon. One song called Drunk Chicken America, an Allan Ginsburg poem from the B side of The Joshua Tree Deluxe Album, was the only obvious choice. The poem is a raw critique of America contrasting it’s unquenchable drive of capitalism as a Drunk Chicken. With this as my starting point, I began to think, pray and reflect on this culinary challenge. 

As I began to listen closer to a selection of U2 songs, the first that stood out to me was In the Name of Love. The song is primarily about the life, death and legacy of Martin Luther King Junior. His April 4th, 1968 asassination was a tragic day in American history. Dr King was in Memphis to speak at a civil rights rally the next day. As I dug deeper into the story surrounding his death I discovered that Dr King was not only a world changing civil rights leader and electrifying preacher, he was also a big foodie. He particularly loved the southern cooking that he grew up on. Dishes such as fried chicken, catfish, black eyed peas and sweet potato pie. 

Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, a pastor at Monumental Baptist Church and an associate of King, stopped by his Memphis hotel room to take Dr King to his home for dinner. He was a little early so they spent some time chatting in the hotel room before they left. In an interview, Kyles was asked what they spent their last few minutes talking about. Dr King wanted to know what was for dinner!

Rev Kyles’s family had prepared a spread of Dr King’s favourite foods including Fried Chicken, black eyed peas and sweet potato pie.  

It was just after 6pm on April 4, 1968 as Dr King stepped out of his Hotel Room to go to dinner when he was shot. The dinner was prepared but never eaten. It is now remembered as “The Dinner That Never Was.”  Now, many people celebrate Martin Luther King Day by preparing his favourite foods. Dr King’s Dinner that Never Was is represented in the fried Chicken and in the Sweet Potato pie.

Even though the combination of Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato pie might be all I would need to capture the culinary Soul of America, just like U2’s music there are many more layers to this dish. Each layer contributes to the story and struggle of America. 

The very bottom of the pie is inspired by a classic Apple pie. Apple pie has been a culinary icon of American cuisine since the late 1700’s when John Chapman (Johnny Apple Seed) sowed appleseeds to the early American settlers. However with this recipe I have made it a savory apple pie, by including sweet onion, fennel, Asian pear, ginger and Harrisa. While the Asian Pear and ginger give the Apple layer a nice crunch and a warming depth of flavour, they also represent the growing Asian American population. Harrissa is a Middle Eastern spice blend that adds a pop of heat while representing Middle Eastern Americans.

Next is a layer of corn Tortillas. The Tortillas represent the Latin Americans who have immigrated to America. Corn is also a staple of American agriculture since the indiginous people farmed the American plains long before Christopher Columbus and the first pilgrims landed on American shores.

The middle layer is a Mulligan (Irish for “everything”) Stew made up of Italian Sausage, a classic Mirepoix (French) of diced carrots, celery, and onion. Then I added some diced potatoes and chopped up an ”everything” bagel. The diced potatoes represent the Irish immigrants who came to America during the great potato famine, and the everything bagel represents the Jewish Americans. The everything bagel also represents the various cultures I have missed. America is made up of people from everywhere. All cultures, all ethnicities and all faiths. America is a little of everything, and that’s really what makes America great.

The top layer of the pie is steamed sweet potato with some tarragon, basil, a pinch of cayenne and some chili powder. This layer is in honor of Martin Luther King and the Dinner That Never Was, as sweet potato pie was one of his favourite dishes.

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I then add a sprinkle of honey roasted nuts to the sweet potato layer, this is a nod to the line from U2’s New York lyrics:

“Irish, Italians, Jews and Hispanics

Religious nuts, political fanatics in the stew”

Also in honor of Martin Luther King, the chicken is fried, but it’s also drunk. Before frying it, I soaked it in a simple brine with Bourbon, Apple juice, cayenne pepper, brown sugar and some salt. Adding the bourbon to the brine brings a nice flavour to the chicken as it pays homage to Allan Ginsburg’s Drunk Chicken/America poem from The Joshua tree.

I then make a spicy Honey Bourbon glaze which I baste the chicken with once it comes out of the fryer. It adds that Mr. Macphisto kick and an extra burst of flavour that ties everything together when it’s drizzled over the chicken and pie when serving. 

I then use a star cutter to cut out a simple pattern of 25 stars on the pie crust. Then add the cut stars for a total of 50 representing each state. I wrap the top of the pie with a simple twist of 2 strands of pie dough to represent the stripes on the American flag.

Overall this American pie is really a Mulligan stew. A sweet and savory reminder of how a hodgepodge of cultures can bring out true harmony in a culture when they all work together to achieve the american dream. The drum and bass of America is it’s diversity. Diversity is the soul of America.

You are Rock & Roll!

Sincerely,
Gary Stevenson
Theo’s Feast

For more information about the U2 Feast

Gary Stevenson’s Bio

Gary Stevenson is a university chaplain, a life long U2 fan and founder of Theo’s Feast. Gary was inspired to start Theo’s Feast as a way to illuminate spiritual truth and inspire meaningful conversation amongst students through a unique shared meal. After closing a feast with a quote from Bono, one of Gary’s students suggested that he should invite U2 to a feast as they would appreciate his metaphors and symbolism. This inspired Gary to create the U2 Feast that uniquely shares U2’s spiritual journey through a 5 course meal.

Gary has since created 7 themed feasts and has hosted well over 2000 dinner guests. Gary has also recently published a cookbook and corresponding video series. Gary is now helping people become better cooks and storytellers through his new online initiative called Theo’s Feast Academy.

Gary, is happily married with 3 kids and lives in Vancouver, Canada. When he is not creating new dishes in the kitchen, he enjoys off-road motorcycling. You can discover more about his unique take on food and story telling at Theosfeast.com

You can follow Gary at Instagram.com/Theosfeast and Facebook.com/theosfeast

Gary’s COVID pivot is teaching online cooking classes similar to our U2 American Pie workshop

Gary would love to host a virtual U2 Feast and teach U2 fans how to experience U2 like never before.

You can email Gary and let him know if you would like more information about the U2 Feast and his ministry at gary.stevenson@p2c.com


Recipe for U2’s American Pie: Eating U2’s America — A Cook-Along Presentation & Conversation

Please join Chef Gary Stevenson of Theo’s Feast for a live cook-along event as part of the U2 Conference 2020. His American Pie session is Saturday, Oct. 24, 3:30 – 5:00 pm EST.

Ingredients and recipe are below, so you can shop ahead of time and prepare to cook with Chef Gary.

Over here, Chef Gary writes about his inspiration for this dish.

Nothing says America like Apple Pie and Fried Chicken. Combining those two classic American dishes would be all you would need to capture the culinary soul of America. But just like U2’s music, there is much more to this dish than meets the eye. Inside it’s America.

This recipe is simple to make. Don’t let the long list of ingredients or steps intimidate you. It can be done in 90 minutes if you prepare well by having your ingredients premeasured, peeled and chopped prior to our workshop time.

It would be a lot easier if you were to pre-make your pie dough and have it in the fridge the day before our event. (Or, cheat a little bit and use a pre-made pie dough.)

U2 Conference American Pie Recipe

Drunk Chicken Brine: Make 1 day ahead.
Optional but highly recommended. 

12 chicken legs. (fresh / thawed)
⅔ cup of bourbon
2 tablespoons of salt
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons chili powder
½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
6 peppercorns or freshly cracked pepper
1 litre of apple juice (about 4 cups)

Mix all but the chicken in a pot. Bring ingredients to a simmer. Let cool to room temperature.

Place the chicken in a plastic container or zip lock back. Cover with the brine and refrigerate overnight.

Fried Chicken Batter

Wet ingredients bowl:
1 cup buttermilk or milk with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 egg, whisked
Salt & Pepper to taste
Mix well in a bowl just prior to frying

Batter Bowl:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

This is a great spice blend for fried chicken batter. Feel free to improvise and use the spices you have on hand.

Battering the Chicken:
Remove the chicken from the brine and place on a drying rack and let air dry for a few minutes. Discard the brine.

Using 2 bowls, one for the wet, one for the dry. Mix the above ingredients in 2 separate bowls.

Dip your chicken in the seasoned flour. Then dip in the egg and milk mixture. Then dip a second time in the seasoned flour.

Frying the Chicken:
Fry the chicken according to your deep fryer instructions. Or simply fill a pan or pot with enough oil to cover the chicken legs lying flat (4 – 6 pending on the size of your pot/pan.)

Using a frying thermometer, bring the oil up to 350 F

Carefully fry you chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F

Using a pastry brush, baste the chicken with the Bourbon sauce (recipe below) when it’s still hot.

Baking the Chicken:
Frying is preferred for authenticity. However you can achieve good results by baking the chicken if you baste the chicken while baking. Set your oven temperature to 375F. Spray the battered chicken with a vegetable oil based cooking spray such as Pam. 

Place battered chicken on a wire rack and sheet pan so the hot air can get to all sides of the chicken. Turn on the convection setting of your oven if you have the option.

Bake the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F using a probe thermometer. Baste the chicken with the Bourbon butter sauce after 15 minutes and then again at 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven and baste it again while hot.

Honey Bourbon Glaze:
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons of bourbon
¼ cup of butter
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of chili powder
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Pastry brush for basting

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Then take off the heat and baste it over your hot chicken legs. Don’t be surprised if the bourbon ignites and burns off as a flambe. The flames will go out once the alcohol has burned off. You can just cover it with a lid if needed.

Pie Dough
Makes 2 – 13” pie crusts enough for a top & bottom of one pie

1 cup or 2 sticks/200g of cold salted butter cut into dice sized cubes
1 medium to large egg – whisked
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
4 ounces of carbonated water or ice-cold tap water with a pinch of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon of sugar

In a mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, add your flour and sugar. Mix in the cold cubed butter on low until butter is incorporated. It will look like a mix of flour with small clumps of butter.

Whisk your egg in a measuring cup, add 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider vinegar and then top it with cold carbonated water to measure 135 ml or 4.5 ounces.

With your mixer on low, mix in the water and egg into the butter and flour until it starts to form a ball. Turn off your mixer and move the dough to a flour dusted cutting board or counter top.

Gently knead the dough forming one large ball of dough. Then cut the large ball in half. Wrap it up in plastic wrap or a cover bowl and place in the fridge until you are ready to make the pie.

Rolling the Pie Dough
Pie dough works best when it’s cold. Working in 2 batches, prepare your pie crust base by rolling it out using a rolling pin on a floured cutting board or counter top. Flour your rolling pin on board regularly so the dough does not stick. Roll it out to ⅛  or 3mm thick. Gently roll it onto your rolling pin and then place it over your pie plate. Gently tuck it unto the pie plate, leaving access to hang over the sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge until you are ready to fill your pie.

Decorating the Top Crust
If you keep the pie dough cold it is easy to cut a variety of shapes using cookie cutters or a paring knife. 

Roll out your dough using a well floured rolling pin and cutting board to ⅛ or 3 mm thick.

Use a round plate that is the same size or slightly larger than your pie plate as a template.

Cut out the rolled dough to size. Then cut 2 circles round the rolled dough around the circumference of the plate. We will use this to form our twisted striped border.

The finished pie with the egg wash ready for the oven.

Cut out your stars using a small star cookie cutter or paring knife. It’s very important to keep the dough cold. If you are in a warm kitchen or climate you may need to pop the dough into the fridge a few times as you cut out your stars. For this reason you might want to prep your pie dough on a cutting board that you can wrap and put in the fridge easily.

Once you have the desired design, cut into your pie crust and gently place over the filled pie. The recipes for the pie filling is below.

For the stripes: Simply twist the outer ⅛ cut lines from the circumference of the plate in two halves. 

Using a pastry brush, baste the top of the pie with a whisked egg mixed with a splash of milk or water. This will give your pie a nice golden color when baking

Then place it around the top of the pie. Baste the twisted stripes well. Then arrange your stars, basting them with the egg wash also.

Bake the pie for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown. Place your pie on the bottom rack of your oven. Start at 400F for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F for the remaining 20 minutes.

This will help bake the bottom of the pie without over cooking or drying out the top. If the top is getting too brown you can cover it with tinfoil.

Top the pie with the fried chicken. Serve a slice of pie, with a piece of chicken on top, spoon over bourbon butter sauce.

American Pie Filling
We will make this in 3 layers: Apple, Mulligan Stew, and Sweet Potato

1. Apple Filling
3 Granny smith apples, cored, peeled & sliced
1 Asian Pear, cored peeled and sliced
½ knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup chopped fennel bulb
¼ cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon Harrisa spice
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
¼ stick of butter
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
½ cup apple juice or white wine
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice

Saute the fennel and onion in the butter until they are translucent but not browned. Add the ginger and cook for one minute. Add the sliced apples, pear and spices. Mix the cornstarch with the apple juice or white wine, pour over the fruit. Cook on medium heat until the apple juice or wine has reduced or absorbed into the apples. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl to cool.

2. Mulligan Stew
400 grams Italian Sausage. Outer cases removed
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, washed and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 Everything Bagel, chopped
1 pat of butter and or a teaspoon of cooking oil
½ cup chicken stock, or apple juice
Salt & pepper to taste
1 pinch of dried thyme

Remove casing from sausage and chop the sausage. Prepare vegetables so they are all the same size, approximately ⅜ “ cubes, for even cooking. Heat oil and butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion, cook for 2 minutes, add sausage, brown for 1 – 2 minutes, then add remaining vegetables and seasoning. Cook for about 5 min. Add chopped Everything bagel and ½ cup chicken stock. Simmer until potatoes are cooked through and the pan is dry.

Remove from heat and place in a bowl to cool.

3. Steamed Sweet Potato
2 medium sized sweet potatoes or yams. Peeled and chopped.
¼ stick of butter
1 tsp tarragon and or basil
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste

Using a steamer, Steam the sweet potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and mash with a hand mixer or potato masher, season with butter, herbs & spices. Let cool. 

Assembling the Pie

  1. Place pie crust in the bottom of the pie
  2. Spoon in apple layer ⅓ of the height of your pan
  3. Cover apple layer with corn tortilla
  4. Spoon in a layer of Mulligan stew
  5. Cover mulligan stew with the mashed Sweet Potato.
  6. Sprinkle over mixed nuts pressing them into the sweet potatoes with the back of a spoon.
  7. Cover with the pie crust, pinching the sides together.
  8. Baste the pie with egg wash so it browns nicely
  9. Place your stars. Don’t forget to brush them with your egg wash as well
  10. Place the pie on the bottom rack of a preheated oven at 400 F.  Bake the pie at 400F for 10 minutes then turn it down to 350 F for the remaining 20 min. This will allow the bottom of your pie crust to bake properly. Cover over the top of the pie crust with tinfoil if it’s browning too quickly.

While the pie is in the oven fry or bake your chicken.

Serve warm with the Bourbon basted chicken on top of the pie. Be sure to reserve some of the basting liquid to pour over your pie when serving.


“A Conversation About The New Film Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President” | Keynote Interview with Bill Flanagan, Mary Wharton and Chris Farrell, with Kristi York Wooten

KEYNOTE INTERVIEW

“A Conversation About The New Film Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President”

BILL FLANAGAN, WRITER
MARY WHARTON, DIRECTOR
CHRIS FARRELL, PRODUCER

WITH KRISTI YORK WOOTEN


BILL FLANAGAN

Bill Flanagan is an American author, television producer and radio host. He wrote the novels A&RNew Bedlam, and Evening’s Empire, the nonfiction books Written in My Soul and U2 at the End of the World, and the humor collection Last of the Moe Haircuts. Flanagan hosts the Sirius XM radio shows Northern Songs and Flanagan’s Wake and contributes essays toCBS Sunday Morning. He created and produced the TV series Storytellers and Crossroads and has worked on series and specials for NBC, ABC, HBO, MTV, Nickelodeon, PBS, the Sundance Channel, and Showtime. Flanagan has written for Spy MagazineRolling StoneVanity FairEsquireGQAir MailMen’s Journal, and The New York Times. He wrote the 2020 film Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President.

MARY WHARTON

Mary Wharton Is the Director of Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President. She won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Music Film for her documentary feature SAM COOKE: LEGEND. Other notable feature film credits include JOAN BAEZ: HOW SWEET THE SOUND, the platinum-selling concert film PHISH: IT, and FARRAH FAWCETT. Mary has dedicated her career to making documentaries about music, including for the VH1 “Legends” series about U2, David Bowie, The Doors, Elton John, George Clinton, and Jimi Hendrix. She served as a producer on the Grammy-winning documentary “Bruce Springsteen: Wings For Wheels, The Making of Born To Run” (Sony/BMG, 2005) and as an Executive Producer of “Tell Them Anything You Want: A Profile of Maurice Sendak,” directed by Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze (HBO, 2009). 

KRISTI YORK WOOTEN

Kristi York Wooten is a music journalist and international development advocate who currently serves as president of The Atlanta Press Club. She published her first major album review in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine in 1992. Beginning in 2002, she became an original volunteer for DATA and later the ONE Campaign and is also an active supporter of CARE and The Carter Center, both based in Atlanta. In 2014, she was part of the team that launched the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Her writing has been published by the New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and Newsweek, although U2 fans may know her from a recent Twitter thread about the band’s ties to Georgia.


U2 Conference 2020 attendees can rent Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President for viewing here. Once you have rented the film for $4.99, you have 14 days to start watching. Once you have started watching, you have access for 72 hours and can watch as many times as you like in that 72 hour period. The film’s distributor, Greenwich Entertainment, is able to distribute the film only in the United States.

Join us for the Saturday, Oct. 24 Keynote Interview by registering for the conference here.


“The Hero’s Journey: U2’s Destiny in America” | Keynote Panel with Chad E. Seales & Timothy D. Neufeld, Moderated by David Dark

CHAD E. SEALES
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
University of Texas at Austin


“The Spiritual Goal is American Soul: Bono and Blackface Minstrelsy”

Chad E. Seales is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His research addresses the relationship between religion and culture in American life, as evident in the social expressions of American evangelicals, the popular practices of millennial capitalism, and the moral prescriptions of corporate managers and business leaders. He is the author of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism (Penn State University Press, 2019), The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town (Oxford University Press, 2013), and has published articles on industrial religion, corporate chaplaincy, and secularism in the United States.


TIMOTHY D. NEUFELD
Associate Marriage and Family Therapist & Adjunct Professor
Fresno Pacific University


“Embracing Opposites: The Integrated Self In U2’s America”

Dr. Timothy D. Neufeld, an associate marriage and family therapist in Fresno, CA, and an adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University. He is the author of U2: Rock ’n’ Roll to Change the World along with numerous academic and popular essays on the intersection of U2 and pop culture. He hosts an innovative online chat community called The Crystal Ballroom and invites you to follow him on Twitter and Periscope at @timneufeld.

U2 : Rock 'n' Roll to Change the World: Neufeld, Timothy D.


“Explain All These Controls: U2 & The Inner America” | U2Con 2020 Keynote by David Dark

DAVID DARK
Associate Professor of Religion and the Arts
Belmont University


“Explain All These Controls: U2 & The Inner America”

David Dark is the author of The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, The Possibility of America, and Everyday Apocalypse. A lifelong Nashvillian, he’s also Associate Professor of Religion and the Arts at Belmont University and can be found on Twitter @daviddark.

The Possibility of America: How the Gospel Can Mend Our God-Blessed, God-Forsaken Land

“A Sort of Homecoming: U2 and a Black American Fan’s Rock & Roll Belonging” | U2CON 2020 Keynote by Kimberly Mack

KIMBERLY MACK
Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Culture
The University of Toledo


A Sort of Homecoming: U2 and a Black American Fan’s Rock & Roll Belonging.” 

Kimberly Mack holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA, and she is an Assistant Professor of African American literature and culture at the University of Toledo. Her book, Fictional Blues: Narrative Self-Invention from Bessie Smith to Jack White, about autobiographical self-fashioning in contemporary American blues fiction and popular music, is forthcoming in December 2020 from the University of Massachusetts Press as part of their African American Intellectual History series. Kimberly’s second book, The Untold History of Early American Rock Criticism, about the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and white women, who helped develop American rock journalism during the 1960s and 1970s, is under contract with Bloomsbury Academic.

Kimberly also holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She received a fellowship to attend a two-week residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in June 2019. She also attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2007 on a waiter workstudy scholarship, and the Vermont Studio Center in 2002. Her essay, “Johnny Rotten, My Mom, and Me,” was published in Longreads in February 2019. Kimberly is currently writing her memoir, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” A Black Girl’s Musical Journey Across America’s Great Racial and Class Divide. She is also a music critic who has contributed her work to national and international publications, including Music Connection, Relix, PopMatters, Hot Press and No Depression.

Fictional Blues

“Freedom, Risk & Rock ‘N’ Roll: Art’s Call To Action, Not Fantasy” | U2CON 2020 Keynote by Edel Rodriguez

KEYNOTE SPEAKER

EDEL RODRIGUEZ
Artist & Activist

“Freedom, Risk & Rock ‘N’ Roll: Art’s Call To Action, Not Fantasy”

Edel Rodriguez is a Cuban American artist who has exhibited internationally with shows in Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Spain. Inspired by personal history, religious rituals, politics, memory, and nostalgia, his bold, figurative works are an examination of identity, cultural displacement, and mortality.

Edel Rodriguez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1971. He was raised in El Gabriel, a small farm town surrounded by fields of tobacco and sugar cane. In 1980 Rodriguez and his family boarded a boat and left for America during the Mariel boatlift. They settled in Miami where Rodriguez was introduced to and influenced by American pop culture for the first time. Socialist propaganda and western advertising, island culture and contemporary city life, are all aspects of his life that continue to inform his work.

In 1994, Rodriguez graduated with honors in painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. In 1998, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Manhattan’s Hunter College graduate program. Throughout his career, Rodriguez has received commissions to create artwork for numerous clients, including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, The New Yorker, and many other publications and book publishers. Rodriguez’s artwork is in the collections of a variety of institutions, including the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., as well as in numerous private collections.


Paper Summaries @ U2 Conference 2018

We are looking forward to hearing 24 presentations grouped into eight sessions spread over two and a half days at the U2 Conference 2018. Listed below are the panel titles and individual presentation titles, with brief summaries of the presentations supplied by each speaker. The full program is posted on our program page. All sessions are open to all conference registrants.

14 JUNE 2018, THURSDAY
8:45 – 10:00 am: Panel Sessions 1A & 1B
Queen’s University

Panel Session 1A: “Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?” Sound and PopVision
Session Chair: Angela Pancella

Pop’s Music Videos
Dr. Jonathan Hodgers
Popular Music Lecturer
Trinity College
Dublin, Ireland

This presentation explores how Pop’s music videos reflect the album’s themes. These promotional vidoes provide an outlet for the songs’ paradoxes and contradictions. They enhance tracks such as “Discotheque” and offer intriguing meditations on tracks such as “Please,” but also settle for comparatively straightforward interpretations such as for “Staring at the Sun.” The discussion also compares Pop’s videos with their antecedents. On occasion, Pop’s promotionals revisit styles found in earlier U2 videos and update them to reflect the band’s aesthetic circa 1997.  The Pop video series showcases a curious mix of conservative and progressive modes, and as such provides an apt reflection of the album.

“And What You Leave Behind You Don’t Miss Anyway”: U2’s Pop and the Pop Art Aesthetic
Dr. Kimberly Mack
Assistant Professor of African American Literature
Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio, USA

Repetition and revision is a notable feature of Pop Art, with Andy Warhol’s repeated Campbell’s Soup cans and images of Marilyn Monroe serving as striking examples. In Pop Art, sometimes the recurring images are not identical, but instead reflect relatively minor differences in color or size. U2 revised and re-recorded “Last Night on Earth” three times: the original album version, the single, and the “First Night in Hell” mix, a dance remix that bears no resemblance to the other two versions. While the differences between the repetitive visual images in Pop Art are usually minor, the third iteration of “Last Night on Earth” reflects a major change in style and form. Using musical excerpts from all three of the band’s interpretations of “Last Night on Earth,” my presentation will argue that U2 takes an expansive approach to Pop Art repetition, connecting Pop to Pop Art through structure, form, and postmodern play.

“Lookin’ for a sound that’s gonna drown out the world”: Resolving Musical Emotional Ambiguity in U2’s POPVision
Dr. Diane M. Rasmussen Pennington
Lecturer in Information Science
Lead, Information Engagement Research Area, Strathclyde iSchool Research Group (SiSRG)
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, Scotland

Semantic ambiguity complicates finding desired information. Additionally, the same music elicits different emotions in different people, which makes it difficult to find music online that meets our emotional desires. I operationalise this as “musical emotional ambiguity.” U2’s musical emotional ambiguity is especially complex, as any fan can attest. In this presentation, I will disambiguate the emotion of U2’s PopVision using multimodal analysis of music, lyrics, videos, and live concerts from Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, 1990s world events, interviews, reviews, paraphernalia, and fandom discussions. Can we agree on how PopVision and its artefacts make us feel?

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Panel Session 1B: “Take This Tangle of a Conversation, Turn It into Your Own Prayer”
Session Chair: Helena Torres Montes García

A Table in the Presence of My Enemies: Pop as “Songs of Descent”
Dr. Richard S. Briggs
Lecturer in Old Testament and Director of Biblical Studies
Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College
Durham University, England

I explore Pop as a series of “poems” that consider the world “in the presence of (my) enemies,” as Psalm 23 puts it. But who are Pop’s enemies? I suggest the album lacks focus on this crucial question, and blurs the line between focusing on God’s enemies (classically: sin, death and the devil), and focusing on how evil is manifest in human life and relationships instead. The album ends up descending into darkness with no clear path available for a corresponding ascent. This sits uneasily with U2’s classic approach, hence the various ambiguities and awkwardness of the PopMart concerts.

The Urban Landscape of U2
Revd Mark Meynell
Independent writer and Cultural Critic
London, UK

Dublin, New York, Belfast, Berlin, London, Paris … and Miami. U2 invariably depicts gritty urban landscapes. If we escape city limits, it’s usually to a desert expanse. It’s hard to picture U2 anywhere other than bathed in neon on the mean streets or even urban warzones (like Dublin in the 70s or Sarajevo in 90s). In U2’s pleading for “God to send his angels,” while “hangin’ round this neighbourhood … THE HIGH STREET never looked so low.” When not actually “Staring at the Sun,” “intransigence is all around … military is still in town.” The surprise is not simply that U2 thrive here, but that they meet God here. These cities bring theophanies. Could this be one reason for U2’s extraordinary spiritual influence? They not only articulate many people’s urban experience, they introduce them to God in it.

U2’s Pop:  A Maturation and Crisis of Faith
Dr. Brian E. Porter
Professor of Management
Department of Economics and Business
Hope College
Holland, Michigan, USA

The songs on Pop address faith and its complications, expressing that neither faith nor God are simple, but instead highly nuanced ideas.  Doubt, questions, uncertainty, and struggles are consistent themes throughout Pop. A sophisticated awareness of God necessitates grappling.  Progression and growth of faith continue on future U2 releases up to their most recent Songs of Experience (influenced by Bono’s near-extinction event).  This presentation will focus on the songs of Pop demonstrating both the crisis and maturation of faith and discuss that the two are complementary. A context of where U2 (and Bono) were at previously and where they have progressed since, with faith, will be presented.

10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Panel Sessions 2A & 2B
Queen’s University

Panel Session 2A: “Got the Swing, Got the Sway, Got My Straw in Lemonade”
Session Chair: Chris Endrinal

Counterpoint and Expression in the Music of U2
Dr. Timothy Koozin
Professor and Division Chair of Music Theory
Moores School of Music, University of Houston
Houston, Texas, USA

This presentation examines counterpoint in the music of U2 from the perspective of embodied musical gesture, showing how vocal and instrumental gestures are combined freely – without strict contrapuntal alignment – to form a unique gestural approach that engages with lyrics to project U2’s distinctive sound. A focus on guitar and vocal gestures in U2’s music shows how material projecting different and even conflicting gestural implications provides a framework for creativity that the band has consistently leveraged through their various changes in style as a means to expressively mediate between the romantic inner world of the artist and an oppressive societal world.

“Already Gone”: How U2’s Use of the Harmonic Series in “Gone” Expresses in Musical Language the Searching, Restless Cross-Pressures of Postmodern Culture
Kevin Ott
Independent Scholar
Shafter, California, USA

Philosopher Charles Taylor describes the secular age as a middle space that produces tremendous cross-pressures between transcendence and immanence. On one side the longing for transcendence tugs at us while the day-to-day wants of immanence pull hard from the other side. U2’s “Gone” uses the colossal structure of the harmonic series to capture this experience. The massive physicality of the music, its rumbling lows and screaming whammy pedal highs, bears down on Bono’s restless melody with insupportable weight. He’s trying to find a way through the canyon of cross-pressures, and we’re following hard after him.

“Electric Blues Death Rattle”: Wisdom Literature and Ecclesiastical Visions in U2’s Pop
Dr. Dan Pinkston
Professor of Music Theory and Composition
Simpson University
Redding, California, USA

“All is Vanity.” So begins the book of Ecclesiastes.  This ancient wisdom echoes through the ages, influencing a myriad of philosophers and theologians … even the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world.  U2’s albums in the mid-1990s showed a departure from the optimism of their 80s output. Pop, the last of these albums, is examined in this paper as a form of wisdom literature, functioning in a manner that is analogous to the Biblical books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.  Songs from this album will be explored in the ways they express dissatisfaction, doubts, and anger.

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Panel Session 2B: “And You Know There’s Something More”: The Art and Soul of Pop
Session Chair:  David Whitt

A “Bogus Brand”: The Popular and UnPOPular Iconography of U2 Fan Tattoos
Beth Nabi
Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Media
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Pop is one of U2’s most visually stunning endeavors, from album art and videos to tour stages and screen graphics, and hosts some of Bono’s most profound and spiritual songs. Yet the album is unpopular in the context of U2 fan tattoos. Fan tattoos merge counterculture and commercialization in the same Pop Art spirit invoked on Pop, as the band played in the tangles of art and commerce, artifice and sincerity, commercial brand and personal identity. Analyzing data from more than 500 fan tattoos, this presentation explores the allure of the most popular symbols and Pop’s noticeable absence from them.

Conversing with the Willfully Polarised: A Multimodal Analysis of “Please”
Dr. Christopher Wales
Associate Professor
Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, NLA University College
Kristiansand, Norway

Pop’s penultimate song, “Please,” is bounded by the complexities of a fragile peace process, compounded by a broken ceasefire, heightened tension and increasingly sharpened rhetoric of polarisation. Willful polarisation. “Please” will be examined and explored through multimodal discourse analysis of various recorded and live versions of the track. Noting its direct and stinging focus, and “one-sided” conversational form, I will explore issues of identity and the temporal, while also focusing more closely on the frames of place and space (Marzierska, 2017). Consideration will also made of how the song once again resonates in the current climate of willful polarisation.

U2’s Concerts as Contemporary Spectacle: Hyper-reality vs. Authenticity
Dr. Michael Williams
Senior Lecturer and Course Leader
University of Brighton
Brighton, UK

U2 appear to intentionally exploit the spectacle to connect with and engage their global audiences. This suggests hyper-reality is an important part of the spectacle of U2’s shows, in terms of the band and their producer’s use of images to create an experience that escapes reality. Despite this, for some fans, the hyper-reality of U2’s shows detracts from the authenticity of the band’s performance and therefore their enjoyment of the shows. This paper examines the tension between the U2’s desire to create an authentic spectacle, ‘free of irony’, and the mediated ‘hyper-real’ experience that is necessitated by the scale of their shows (Jones, 2012).

15 JUNE 2018, FRIDAY

8:45 – 10:00 am: Panel Sessions 3A & 3B
Queen’s University

Panel 3A: “Wanting to Be the Song That You Hear in Your Head”
Session Chair: Jan Vierhout

Pop and the Prequels: A Case for the Necessity of These Pariahs
Dr. Christopher Endrinal
Assistant Professor of Music
Bower School of Music and the Arts, Florida Gulf Coast University
Fort Myers, Florida, USA

While superficially disparate, U2’s Pop album and the Star Wars “prequel” trilogy (Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Episode II: Attack of the Clones; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) share a dubious distinction: Many critics and fans consider each the nadir of its respective franchise. This presentation explores these works and their reception, and argues that they were actually necessary for each franchise’s continued cultural relevance, critical acclaim, and financial success.

A Reinterpretation of U2’s Discography: Pop as a Transition Album
Dr. Helena Torres Montes García
Professor
Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
Mexico City, Mexico

This presentation proposes the division of U2’s discography into eras. As such, Pop would be the pinnacle of an era, and the album that eased the transition into U2’s next incarnation. Pop, as an album, has been criticized, but this presentation aims to prove that this was the album that foreshadowed the U2 of the 2000s.

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Panel 3B: Pop and the Preachers: “Is There An Order In All Of This Disorder?”
Session Chair: Tim Neufeld

Psalms of Experience: Prayers and Protests From The Boot Of Your Car
Micheal Felker
Lead Pastor
Lakeside Church of Christ
Mansfield, Texas, USA

In the Hebrew Bible there is a collection of promptings, poems, and prayers known as the Psalms of Lament that are designated by their focus on helping bring hope in the life of an individual, of a nation, or a particular group caught in the midst of trials and tribulations. U2 has always used their music to both speak truth to the powers of injustice and sing grace to pain. Pop is their master opus in this endeavor. On this album, U2 appropriates the words and images of Lament to give voice to grief and bring life to despair. Join us for a discussion of Lament, U2’s use of lament in the era of Pop, and where lament can lead us once we get up off our knees.

The Endings of Pop: Benediction, Lullaby or Lament?
Rev. Dr. Steve Taylor
Principal
Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Knox College
Dunedin, New Zealand

U2 are performance artists. They shuffle songs, insert visuals and craft snippets in the name of peace. This helps us understand “Wake Up Dead Man,” the song ending Pop. The album begins with “Discoteque” – everybody having a good time – yet ends with a song in which a profane lyric speaks of divine absence. Live, during the PopMart tour, “Wake Up Dead Man,” is performed as an ending. Is this a benediction, an invoking of divine sending? Yet midway through the later Elevation tour, “Wake Up Dead Man” is played mid-show, between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One.” Is this a lament? How might such performances contrast with the lullaby-like “MLK,” another album-ending song for a dead man? This talk includes #U2lyricbingo

Escape from the “Playboy Mansion”: U2, Me Too, and Masculinity
Andrew William Smith
Instructor of English and Religious Studies
Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee, USA

Is there a masculinity after toxic masculinity? Borrowing perspectives from feminism, men’s studies, and theology, this paper will look primarily at lyrics and images of U2 in the Pop era to reclaim and recover a tentative gender theory for U2 fans and scholars in the wake of the #MeToo movement and moment. Come look, come learn, and come listen to what Bono’s eschatological coda to “Playboy Mansion” has to say about the divine promise of a time without shame and sorrow, through and beyond the shameful status of gender relations in 2018.

10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Panel Sessions 4A & 4B
Queen’s University

Panel 4A: “Returning the Call to Home”
Session Chair: Chris Wales

Mother and Muse: The Voice of Iris
Dr. Stephen Newman
Lecturer, Department of Irish
Mary Immaculate College
Limerick, Ireland

At the heart of U2’s foundation myth is the death of Iris: “This was where a certain life-force gathered pace in me, when a certain defiance began” (Bono, Songs of Experience). This paper will explore the expression of grief in U2’s music and to what extent it relates to traditional connections between music, death and the grieving process, especially in an Irish context. She is the absent mother of “I Will Follow” and “Tomorrow,” the muse-like figure of “Lemon.” In “MOFO,” the singer, astray in a crazy Popscape, calls for her guidance. In “Iris,” memory recaptures her, a reunion of sorts, her voice emerges, still present in “Lights of Home,” Bono’s reflection on a near-death experience.

U2 and Nostalgia: Running to Stand Still or the Start of a Beautiful Day?
Madison Vardeman
Independent Scholar
Keller, Texas, USA

Within the realm of communication studies, the topic of nostalgia is often viewed in a negative light. This is due to its tendency to glorify a troubled past which allows for the potential to recreate similar issues in the future. In this presentation, I will analyze U2’s Joshua Tree Tour 2017 concert in Dallas, TX to prove that a nostalgic framework can be used in a way that does not solely glorify the past. I argue that this can be accomplished by applying the principles of Affect Theory and Aristotle’s emotional appeals to place focus on the emotional reactions that nostalgia elicits rather than focusing on the memories of the past events that are associated with the original Joshua Tree album and tour.

U2 in the Classroom: The Teacher Perspective
Dr. Dave Whitt
Professor of Communication Studies
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Since 2015, I have taught a course on U2 titled Songs of Ascent: The Music and Meaning of U2. I will discuss how the course has evolved over the past several years in terms of content, assignments and discussions, as well as the challenges and success stories teaching a class on U2.

U2 in the Classroom: The Student Perspective
Georgia Straka
Psychology Major and Communication Studies Minor
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

As a former student in Songs of Ascent: The Music and Meaning of U2, I will share my thoughts about the course, what I learned, and how this experience will prepare me for being a teaching assistant in the class this fall.

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Panel 4B: “Listen As Hope and Peace Try to Rhyme”
Session Chair: Naomi Dinnen

Escape from the “Playboy Mansion”: U2, Me Too, and Masculinity
Andrew William Smith
Instructor of English and Religious Studies
Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee, USA

Is there a masculinity after toxic masculinity? Borrowing perspectives from feminism, men’s studies, and theology, this paper will look primarily at lyrics and images of U2 in the Pop era to reclaim and recover a tentative gender theory for U2 fans and scholars in the wake of the #MeToo movement and moment. Come look, come learn, and come listen to what Bono’s eschatological coda to “Playboy Mansion” has to say about the divine promise of a time without shame and sorrow, through and beyond the shameful status of gender relations in 2018.

“The Less You Know, The More You Believe”: The Dilemma of Pop Activism in the Case of Aung San Suu Kyi
Dr. Tim Neufeld
Professor, Biblical and Religious Studies
Fresno Pacific University
Fresno, California, USA

U2’s interest in social activism during the 1990s prepared them for an enthusiastic reception of the Suu Kyi story on a scale that was unique to rock ’n’ roll culture. The band became more than advocates; U2’s members passionately entered the narrative, moving beyond the one-off strategies of earlier decades, inspiring legions of fans to do the same. However, the experience has, of late, revealed blind spots in Western activism, celebrity advocacy, and fan-based social movements. Suu Kyi’s fall from celebrated humanitarian to international despot is sobering. The band’s failed relationship with her reminds us that philanthropists can miss important signals in their attempts to be benevolent.

1:30 – 2:30 pm: “Like Faith Needs a Doubt”: An Interactive Exploration of Theist/Non-Theist Dialogue, led by  Angela Pancella, Independent Scholar, Norwood, Ohio, USA
Fitzroy Presbyterian Church
Session Chair: Micheal Felker

An increasing number of people have a non-theistic worldview. As the culture becomes more diverse, there is a need for models of engagement where differing perspectives are treated with respect. U2 have demonstrated a talent for maintaining dialogue across a theist/non-theist divide. Participants in this gathering will respond to U2 songs that say “I don’t believe,” “I could never believe” and “Don’t believe what you hear.” We will explore how terms like “believe” can be used for vastly different experiences, and how this ambiguity keeps the possibilities of interpretation open for listeners with diverse worldviews.

Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill: “Pop in the Age of Experience,” at the U2 Conference 2018

Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill: Pop in the Age of Experience

Shaughn McGrath

Right out of college, Shaughn McGrath joined a young design studio in Dublin called Works Associates run by Steve Averill. The studio worked with many young Irish bands and artists, such as Clannad, Something Happens, A House, and U2. Later clients were PJ Harvey, Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, and Art of Noise. The name above the doors changed to ABA, Four5One and then AMP Visual, which McGrath formed in 2010. AMP is a multi-specialised creative design studio, developing integrated creative solutions for international brands in the corporate and entertainment sectors. It specializes in corporate identity and brand development, music and merchandising design, both for large brands and re-branding roll-outs for boutique and bespoke design projects.

McGrath has designed for U2 continuously since Achtung Baby in 1990, developing a close working relationship involving creating comprehensive promotional campaigns and advertising, books, special packaging, and tour merchandising, not to mention working on all of U2’s albums and singles since 1990. For U2, the design process begins with the music and as the music is refined during the recording, the graphics also change. The final design comes together after the band and the creative team discuss all aspects of the project. He appreciates the unusual longevity he has had career-wise in working with U2 as a client for nearly 30 years.

Pop was the first time McGrath took on a complete U2 campaign. Pop allowed for a wide creative scope with references to the graphic Pop Art world in general with its layouts, colour palettes and iconography, which McGrath had fun expanding upon for U2. Because of the breadth of the entire campaign, from album packaging, the tour merchandising and the subsequent promotion and advertising, it was a year and half of constant work. Creatively, Pop took a long time to figure out, both for the band and consequently for McGrath. It gave him the opportunity to explore numerous different creative processes, learn all-new aspects of graphic design, and produce some nice work along the way.

“I approach my work for U2 with enthusiasm and conviction. Each project should be seen as an opportunity to push boundaries and create distinctive and engaging work. I’m driven by a sense of responsibility to the band and the fans, and to the environments where the work is ultimately seen and hopefully enjoyed,” McGrath says.

McGrath has also served as a judge on several design awards panels and lectures internationally on his work and the design industry.

Steve Averill

As a teenager two things were of primary interest to Stephen Averill: music and graphics; and from early on he sought ways to combine the two. The first real opportunity to bring them together came when he founded The Radiators From Space and designed their first single cover which was instrumental in getting the band a record deal. This, in turn, led to an approach from a young bass player named Adam Clayton seeking advice for his band, then know as The Hype. An early Averill suggestion was to change that name. His suggestion was U2. The band won a competition under that name and so stuck with it. The rest of their history since then is fairly well-known!

Averill began his career in the creative industry as a advertising art director. He eventually became the creative director of an upcoming agency before setting up a dedicated design consultancy that specialized in entertainment and music industry projects. During the 1980s and ’90s, they worked with most of the best Irish-based acts, including The Script, The Dubliners, The Hothouse Flowers, Aslan, Cactus World News, Clannad and more recently with Luka Bloom and Finbar Furey.

Some international clients with whom the has worked have included Elvis Costello (when he was an Irish resident), Depeche Mode, The Mavericks and Dierks Bentley and renowned photographers including Anton Corbijn, Jill Furmanovsky, Brian Griffen as well as Irish based photographers Amelia Stein and Conor Horgan. There have also been a host of UK and Irish bands and solo artists since that time.

In recent times since retiring from AMP Visual, Averill has continued using his graphic design skills to work with a specialist not-for-profit project called Bí URBAN a retail/teaching/workspace in Stonybatter in the heart of Dublin, where he recently had an exhibition of six limited edition prints of photographs he took during the shoot for the Joshua Tree album in 1986. This was titled Death Valley 86.

Averill, under his stage name of Steve Rapid, continues to perform with his Radiators from Space colleagues as Trouble Pilgrims. The band recently released their debut CD Dark Shadows and Rust. He continues to perform with that band and to work with upcoming musicians as a consultant and designer.

Beth Nabi, The U2 Tattoo Project and Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Media, at the U2 Conference 2018

Beth Nabi

Plenary Presentation Title: Ink, Icons, Identity: U2 As Written On Skin

Panel Talk Title: A Bogus Brand: The Popular and UnPOPular Iconography of U2 Fan Tattoos

Beth Nabi is an associate professor of graphic design and digital media at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Florida and her master’s degree in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. As a graphic design educator, she specializes in publication design, graphic design history and design for social good. A 26-year fan of U2, Nabi studies the bands’s visual identities, marketing and branding, and has presented her research on these topics at several academic conferences. Her research on U2’s visual history led her to create the U2 Tattoo Project in 2015, an ongoing international study and curation of U2 fan tattoos. She has traveled to 10 countries and documented more than 300 fans in person, with another 300 online submissions from U2 fans all over the world. In August 2016, the U2 Tattoo Project’s first exhibit, “Ink, Icons, Identity: Exploring U2’s Brand Through Fan Tattoos,” opened at the UNF Gallery of Art in Jacksonville. It showcased bodily markings in the context of related U2 artifacts; presented the compelling personal stories behind the tattooed logos, symbols and lyrics; and explored the dynamic relationship between fan and band as U2’s visual identity passes into the hands and onto the bodies of fans. As part of a celebration for the band’s 40th anniversary, the Project exhibited at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 2016, presenting a chronological narrative of the band’s four decades through fan tattoos.

The U2 Conference logo and site design by Beth Nabi.