It seems like yesterday that the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference and Festival began as a local gathering in Austin, Texas. But it's actually been 15 years - and today, what is simply known as SXSW has morphed into the American music industry's largest event. Yet in a time when rock & roll seems preoccupied with all things peer-to-peer, is a mass roundup of nearly 1,000 acts in 50 clubs over five nights still relevant? Is live music itself still relevant?
Here's what David Byrne had to say about that: "The thing that concerns me about P2P is the fact that, like a lot of the Internet, it's totally impersonal. . . . Another thing is, as recorded music gets passed around on the Internet and just becomes data in the air that anybody can have anytime, anywhere, in any form, then it becomes valueless, and people are going to be less interested in it. They're not gonna give a shit about it. What they're gonna give a shit about is the live performance - to actually see something and be moved by it and know that you can never download it. You can film it, but it's not the same. You can record it, but it's not the same. You have to be there at a specific time in your life, at a specific moment, at a specific place - and once it's over, it's over forever. That's gonna be much more valuable."
And here's what Ray Davies had to say: "Even though record companies have better technology today, smarter marketing, and more skillful research, they still don't know the audience as well as I do. That's why I keep performing. And that's why new artists have to have somewhere to perform. . . . We should all just go out and listen to as much music as possible. That's really why we're all here."
Davies practiced what he keynoted, not only seeing young bands but singing with one, too. The once and future Kink, who will be honored by young artists on a tribute album expected in July from Praxis, will release his first solo album of new material later this year on Capitol. And Byrne, the former Talking Head, has just released Look into the Eyeball on his own label, Luaka Bop. You've got to hand it to these veteran musicians for striving to stay fresh and, well, relevant. That's more than you can say for a certain veteran journalist. To wit:
During the panel discussion "Boy Howdy! The Creem Story" - all about "quite simply the finest publication rock & roll has ever produced," as moderator Jim DeRogatis put it - someone in the audience asked the eight former Creem editors and writers if, given $40 million by a venture capitalist, they'd do it again. "No," Ben Edmonds volunteered. "Music today doesn't deserve a Creem magazine."
Hissssssssssss, went the audience.
"Did you go out last night," went DeRogatis, "or did you sit in your hotel and not see any f--kin' music? I saw three great bands last night. What's the matter with you?"
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