Wednesday, July 16, 2008

talking all day and all night

I spent last weekend at O'Reilly's FOO Camp. It was 2.5 days of intense hanging out with about 300 uber-smart people. Like I mentioned in my last post, I get invited to perform at quite a few tech conferences. I love going, not just because the chance to play for a thoughtful and critical audience often spurs me to try new things, but also because I enjoy the session topics and love the atmosphere.

FOO Camp was unique in many ways. For one, there was camping on the lawn, next to the bar, which made the whole thing like your dream summer camp. Next, you can't buy tickets and have to be invited so there was no division between presenters and attendees. Whereas often at these things the presenters are like rock stars, FOO had an egalitarian feel to it. Of course, that could have been my personal experience because I didn't attach people's names to their credentials until after the event. It's possible that if I had known who I was talking to in advance, I would have been too shy to approach anyone. As it was, I enjoyed seating myself with people I didn't know at meals (the food was absolutely fantastic) and striking up random conversations with strangers.

I didn't know much about FOO in advance and so I wasn't sure until I got there if I was meant to participate in the whole weekend or just meant to entertain, provide some local colour and then disappear. Luckily, I decided nothing was meant, and it didn't matter, and so I proceeded to have a spanking great time. What was a complete surprise was how many people there I already knew, or was separated from by only one degree.

I wish I enjoyed music conferences as much. The few I've been to have been truly dreadful so maybe I'm not going to the right ones. The musician attendees have felt a bit desperate and I get the sense every conversation is a promotional opportunity with everyone ready to impress at a moments notice. Authentic interactions feel hard to come by. Maybe "geeks" are better at hiding their motives? I never had the sense at FOO that anyone had an agenda. Although, it does occur to me that because I was "just a musician" and not a CEO, no one needed to impress me.

And then, I'm sorry, but what do rock musicians talk about when we are together? Worst gigs. Best gigs. Tour horror stories. Dissing other bands. How drunk so and so got last night. Yes, that's a horrible stereotype and of course there are exceptions, but the current culture of the music industry does not seem to reward thoughtfulness or multidimensionality. Talking history or social psychology or political philosophy or poverty or whatever, is a good way to provoke glazed looks and worse, sarcastic comment. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy regular bouts of senseless mirth. I have yet to master burping on command, but I can probably drink you under the table. But, I crave banquets of curious people with which to have mind-expanding, vitamin-packed conversations. Luckily, I had about 40 hours of those conversations at FOO Camp and I realize that I have them almost every day with my partner-in-life Jeff, and with my friends. Burp.

Anyway, I also happen to be in the planning stages of a long-term project involving live visualizations (video, animation, imagery, etc) that I can control either via my music itself, or through manual midi commands. I mentioned it in passing to someone and they said, "you should ask people here, I bet you'd find people". So, I mentioned it when I performed, and sure enough, all weekend long people came up to me with ideas or knowledge about musical visualization. Now I wish I'd formally put it on the session board, but it certainly expanded my horizons as to what is technically and artistically possible. It also helped me realize that it will be a cooler project if I open it up and work with more artists. To be continued...

My other regret is that I never played werewolf because I was too busy chit chatting. I meant to join a game on Saturday night, but at 2am I suddenly turned into a pumpkin and went to sleep (this is after having been up until 4am on Friday, and then awake at 8am). Hopefully I can teach werewolf to everyone on the Amanda Palmer tour, since it seems like it could be a good game for 10 or so people trapped together for many weeks on a tour bus.


Blogger DouglasL said...

You've got me: what is werewolf and how do we play? Awrooooooo

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