Bob Geldof at SXSW: Best. Keynote. Ever.


Maybe not exactly ever, but it sure seemed that way. After all, unlike recent "keynotes" at the SXSW Music Festival - which have tended to be mere Q&As with an onstage interviewer - Bob Geldof's talk this morning was an actual keynote speech. And an enthralling one at that.

He came onstage with a few sheets of paper, but after putting them on the lectern, he almost never looked at them. Nor did he even stay near the lectern. Rather, in a dramatic departure from those seated Q&As, he roamed the stage, sounding off vividly on all matters musical and political.

But mostly musical. And although he gave some props to current pop - acknowledging in the post-keynote press conference that Lady Gaga has created a successful "avatar" of herself - he lamented/castigated "the end of passion" and "the end of relevance" in rock music.

There's no time for me to delve deep into his rich talk, right here, right now. I hope to put more in the next print issue of S+V, and I also hope to place big chunks of the transcript on this site eventually.

But for now, just check out these choice comments about the blogosphere . . .

BrandoI don't mind putting these choice comments in a blog itself, because I'm an S+V print journalist first and a rare contributor to this S+V blog only through necessity and when time allows (which is almost never). But you have to give Geldof credit for going after bloggers in a room whose audience probably included hundreds of them.

With today's media, he began, "sensation is all that we register, and then without the context in which it happens. The Web is becoming like that. If I want to hear screeching, I can always turn on Fox News. We need someone to pause, to reflect, to consider, to be wise. To make decisions, or to interpret. To stop time for a moment.

"Even Shakespeare had an editor. You need a filter. Hyperdemocracy, which is what the Web suggests, is a bust. Endless choice is a drag, a supermarket of nothing but self-patter.

"There's that moment in The Wild One - with Marlon Brando of course looking deathlessly cool, leaning against the jukebox - when Mildred walks into the cafe and says, 'What're you rebelling against, Johnny?' Heavy-lidded, Brando looks up and says, 'Whaddaya got?' That's rock & roll. Bloggers don't have it; they're a pain in the ass.

"Individuals are simply not that important. It's when we work together that we take on a sense of importance that is greater than any one of us could ever possibly be."

Meanwhile, Geldof's new album - his first since 2001's Sex, Age & Death - is called How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell. How indeed!

- Ken Richardson