I’m flying from San Jose to Austin today, departing directly from the last morning of TED to join South by Southwest, already in progress. I’m expecting a bit of culture shock – SXSW tends to be as democratic, informal and low-key as TED is exclusive, flashy and intense. But that culture shock has nothing on what They Might Be Giants must have experienced opening the program Saturday morning.
Friday night is TED’s “grand party” – last year’s was held in the Monterey Aquarium, which prompted Julia Sweeney to note that there’s something very odd about eating sushi in front of tanks of live fish. This year’s was in an airport hangar at the Monterey jetport. I had an early night, and I still wasn’t at my best at 8:30 this morning… and I suspect the vast majority of attendees were worse off than I was.
John Flansburgh noted that, in a 25 year career that’s included over 1000 live shows, they’ve performed only two this year. One, in Saint Louis, was the coldest venue they’ve ever performed in at 19 degrees. This is the earliest, at 8:30 am. It’s hard to say who looked more distressed – Flans and Linnell trying to get a reaction from the crowd with a sharp, fast, funny set, or the hungover atendees I was sitting with as they stared at their Blackberries and fought off their hangovers. I generally support the playing of accordion as often as possible – especially John Linnell’s lovely 2.5 octave box labeled “Main Squeeze” – but it strikes me this session could have been timed a bit better.
And yet, TMBG is my favorite accordion-fronted geek rock band, in much the same way that Erin McKean is my favorite blogging lexicographer. They offered “Now You’re Even Older”, a wonderfully geeky new song, “Hummingbird Moth”, channeled Eleanor Roosevelt, made fun of TED badges and James Randi and generally made me very happy I’d gotten out of bed. Next year, they should play the party.
I need to post responses to about a hundred blog comments here and on Worldchanging, answer three days worth of email and write my talk for SXSW, so my reviews and prizes may wait a day or two. I left Bruno blogging away – I look forward to his notes from the day, and to seeing Lorna Herf’s beautiful sketches. (I spilled a drink on Lorna last night, and she had the most wonderful response. Hours later, she found me and spilled a bottle of water on me so I wouldn’t feel so bad. And it worked.)
Thank you, everyone for a wonderful conference – I’m hugely looking forward to blogging TED Global from Tanzania in a few months.