SXSW Music: Pete Townshend Keynote Address
Hilton Grand Ballroom, Wednesday, March 14, 6:30pm
Pete Townshend, legendary guitarist for the equally legendary Who, gave the keynote speech a day early at this year's South by Southwest, which is appropriate given that the world famous music Festival now truly begins on Wednesday rather than Thursday. What he said, however, is old news. And that was kind of his point. Actually, there was no "point" in that Townshend's keynote wasn't a speech, but, as with the advent of SXSW's earlier kickoff, keynotes like Robert Plant last year and Little Richard the year before, have evolved into one-on-one interviews. So it didn't have the quasi-coherency the normal speeches do (or at least rock & roll coherency). Instead it wandered from subject to subject. Notable among the topics was Townshend's theory on the British perspective of American music. Specifically that with the geographic distance they were able to see it as a three-legged chair of country, pop, and blues. That, combined with some collective national post-war denial, somehow produced the music of his his generation. Also of note were some one-off comments like the admission that the Eighties reunion tour was undertaken largely to get late Who bassist John Entwistle out of financial problems only to subsequently see him spend "most of his profits on cocaine." Other tidbits included an overview of his new online music venture called "The Method," and how he prefers Quadrophenia to Who's Next. The only allusion made to his recent legal troubles was a proclamation that any things he suffered in his past are the source of his strengths now. The implications the Internet has for artists was a leitmotif that Townshend came back to a few times. To that point, the guy sitting next to me was live blogging the interview. So, Townshend's errant quips about Franz Ferdinand the band, Franz Ferdinand the archduke, and World War I lasting "for centuries" have already been floating out into the cyber-ether for people to chuckle at.