Chicago Daily Herald on Pete SXSW Keynote

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Thu Mar 15 07:02:56 CDT 2007 

Pete talkin’ ’bout his generation 
By Mark Guarino 
Daily Herald Music Critic 
Posted Thursday, March 15, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas — Bands unloaded gear outside clubs, hipsters crowded the streets and rock legends spoke their mind about the state of rock ’n’ roll.

This was the opening snapshot of the 21st edition of the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas. Running Wednesday through Sunday, the annual interface between record company executives, band managers, publicists, journalists, radio programmers and more than 14,000 bands is an annual summit that doubles as the state of the union of the recording industry.

Chicago is playing a major role as usual. Aside from the dozens of Chicago bands here, club promoters are showcasing the city’s music scene. Wednesday afternoon was dedicated to Wrigleyville rock institution Metro, which hosted an all-day showcase at Emo’s, featuring Chicago bands including the Smoking Popes and the Redwalls.

Pete Townshend of The Who opened the conference Wednesday evening in a keynote address at the Hilton Grand Ballroom. It was a relaxed environment for Townshend to talk about a wide range of subjects, including The Who’s reincarnation to the Internet.

“Rome is burning,” he said, quoting an unnamed record company executive regarding the industry, which has suffered through hard times lately thanks to a dwindling consumer base and slacking CD sales.

Townshend admitted bands of his era are not contingent on online marketing (“The Who is an anomaly like the Stones,” he said), however the Internet is essential for creating a new and intimate dynamic between artist and fan.

“I want it live. Why is it that the industry who control everything 
 why is it they are saying we can’t have it live? Music is about congregation,” he said.

He took Wednesday’s address to announce an Internet project called “The Method” he designed as a future model connecting audiences and musicians. Users will be able to interface with software to create music that is uniquely tailored to their personalities. Townshend likened it to the same process between portrait artist and subject.

Upon its completion, users will own a third of the copyright. It will debut April 25.

Townshend also spoke frankly about The Who’s legacy. Among his admissions:

• He prefers the rock opera “Quadrophenia” to the band’s classic album “Who’s Next.” “It’s purer. It’s complete. I had complete control. It hurt the band a bit. I don’t think I will ever surpass it,” he said.

• The band originally reunited to “help (bassist) John Entwistle with money problems
He spent most of it on cocaine,” Townshend said. Entwistle died of a heart attack induced by cocaine in 2002.

• Replacement drummer Zak Starkey received his first drum kit from original Who drummer Keith Moon. Townshend said he decided to play as The Who due to his connection with Starkey, which was unlike what he shared with Kenny Jones, Moon’s first replacement. “(Starkey) and I have extraordinary chemistry based on the fact whatever I do, he’s already doing it,” he said.

Townshend, 61, also compared the difficulty for the baby boom generation in the United Kingdom to reconcile growing up in an “atmosphere of absolute denial” when it came to post-war Britain. The heavy swing of British rock — a mixture of American country, folk and pop — was the result of that experience, he said.

“What we brought to that three-legged chair was not anger — it looked like anger — it was frustration. And a demand for answers which, to this very day, we’ve never had,” he said.

The British Invasion’s violent sound, which later transformed into punk, is “not valid anymore” because the message is not being heard. “I’m not saying music shouldn’t have edge. But if it’s political, let’s make it (expletive) political,” he said. 

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month!

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