Billy Corgan Covers “Don’t Speak” At SXSW
I saw a lot of incredibly smart people speak at SXSWi this year. Like, wicked smart people. I saw Jaron Lanier, Ray Kurzweil, Al Gore and a schedule full of others whose IQs are probably higher than my best bowling score, my Klout score, my own IQ, my blood pressure and my SAT score combined. Guys that weave “neo cortex” into casual conversation the way I drop F-Bombs at breakfast. You know, smart mother f*ckers.
However, out of all the brilliant, talented people I saw, inspiration I heard and concepts I pondered, Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins made a comment that stuck with me more than any other—something almost as haunting as those big bell strikes in “Disarm.”
Corgan told a convention hall teeming with social media gurus and geeks, in a rousing rant to interviewer @briansolis about the state of the music industry and social media and "f*ckin' poseurs," that he (I’m paraphrasing here—he used way more profanity) doesn’t really speak during shows anymore. What? Why? Because he doesn’t want one dumb thing he says during a two-hour show to end up on Twitter, where a 140-character brush could paint a poor image of him over and over and over.
Corgan said after building a reputation as a musician over 20 years he doesn’t want something like that to affect his image, reputation and ultimately record (mp3) and ticket sales.
I could have thought, well then don’t say something stupid, stupid. But that wouldn’t be very rock star-like of him. Or, speaking of rock stars, I could have said what kind of rock star cares what people think? Or, I could have tweeted, “Billy Corgan blabbering at #SXSW about how he won’t blabber at shows ‘cause of social media. #bigbaldwhinybaby.”
Instead, I just got sad.
You see, I saw the Smashing Pumpkins last year at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Well, I saw Billy Corgan fronting a band called the Smashing Pumpkins who looked more like the Smashing Squash or the Smashing Gourds, because he's replaced his entire band with imposters.
Anyway, I saw them, and it’s true, he didn’t say much at all. They just played song after song. Look, you definitely go to a show to hear the music, not for rants, but part of a show is getting a little dialogue from the front-man. A little interaction with the crowd.
Not at this show. This crowd was apparently robbed of that experience by a fear of social-media backlash, and that’s too bad, because Corgan is a smart, dynamic, salty, snarky, passionate, charismatic speaker.
So during and since that session at SXSWi I’ve really been thinking about how much of life’s experience we now miss because of social media, whether it's because people alter their behavior due to it or because we're distracted by it. Social media has no doubt enhanced our knowledge and experience in many ways, but as I sat in that session and watched people frantically posting quotes from Corgan to #EndOfUsual, I wondered how much they were missing while they were rushing to tweet something so it might get retweeted.
Are they hearing what he is really saying? Are they truly experiencing the moment? Or are they missing the details and nuance of the experience in exchange for letting others in the world know they are cool enough to be at SXSW watching Billy Corgan speak?
How much do we miss out on when we’re busy tweeting and Facebooking and Instagraming during events and dates and dinners and parties and trips to the park and hikes? Is it more than we gain?
Is it possible for us to stop to smell the roses without posting a photo of those roses anymore? Maybe not. But maybe we should at least smell them before we post that photo. That's sharing an experience.
Anyway, that's what stuck with me after hearing Billy Corgan run his mouth about keeping his mouth shut. Based on his hilarious rant, all I can imagine he would say to this post is, "See, I say one God damn thing over the course of an hour and that's all this douche gets out of it? Then he posts it? Thanks for proving my point, dick. Oh, and P.S., I would never cover a No Doubt song--they're a bunch of f*ckin' poseurs." Yep, that's probably what he would say. He just wouldn't say it between songs at a show.
What do you think, are we missing out on experiences?