Bruce Springsteen gave what has been called a "rousing" keynote address at the annual South by Southwest Music Conference over the weekend. Referring to himself as "an average guy with a slightly above average gift," the Boss delivered an hour long deconstruction of popular music alongside a much-needed pep talk for future generations.
"The word ‘keynote’ made me uncomfortable. It seemed to suggest that there was a key note to be struck that sums up whatever is going on out there in the streets: five days of bands, hundreds of venues, morning to night. And no one hardly agrees on anything in pop anymore.," he said. There is no key note. I don’t think. There’s no unified theory of everything. You can ask Einstein."
The derisiveness of today's music culture was an early target.
"You can go, 'Phish, inheritors of the Grateful Dead’s mantle, brilliant center of the true alternative community,' or, 'They suck!'"
"You go, 'Bruce Springsteen, natural-born poetic genius off the streets of Monmouth County, (wait) hardest-working New Jerseyan in show business, voice of the common man, future of rock ‘n’ roll,' or 'He sucks! Get the fuck outta here!'"
Springsteen also served up a generous helping of self-deprecation.
"It’s fascinating to see what’s become of the music I’ve loved my whole life. For a guy who realizes that U2 is the last band that he’s going to know the names of all four members in, it’s overwhelming."
Springsteen sprinkled in references to a diverse array of artists, from hard-rockers KISS to Public Enemy, in a valiant attempt to applaud music makers across the board. He also took the time to tell the assembled crowd that he was planning to go see "some black death metal" once his speech was over.
"Whether you are making dance music, rap music or Americana, it’s all about how you are putting it together. The elements don’t matter," he said. "There is no right way, no pure way of doing it – there is just doing it. We live in a post-authentic world. At the end of the day, it’s the power and the purpose of your music that still matters."