AUSTIN, Texas -- The Who may be on a break from their latest North American tour, but guitarist Pete Townshend isn't exactly vacationing at the South By Southwest Music + Media conference here.
Townshend not only served as the event's keynote speaker but had a full slate of performances scheduled -- including a surprise jam with former Faces and Rolling Stones keyboardist Ian McLagan and his Bump Band Wednesday (March 14th) at the annual Austin Music Awards ceremony. Townshend joined McLagan and company for two songs during a tribute set to the late Faces bassist Ronnie Lane, playing "Christy Lied" from the 1977 Townshend-Lane collaboration "Rough Mix" as well as the Small Faces' "What'cha Gonna Do About It," the latter of which featured some inspired soloing by Townshend -- who McLagan introduced to the crowd as "Uncle Pete."
Townshend was slated to play Thursday (March 15th) with Sean Lennon and others at his girlfriend Rachel Fuller's Attic Jams session, part of a series of intimate, collaborative performances she stages around the world. And the guitarist was rumored to be planning to guest with upstart Scottish band the Fratellis during their set at Friday's (March 16th) Spin magazine party.
Townshend covered a wide variety of subjects at his keynote presentation, including the Who and his solo work, and he endorsed a theatrical version of the Who concept album "Quadrophenia" and noted that the show "may go on" into wider production. A stage adaptation of the Who's other full-length rock opera, "Tommy," was a Tony Award winner.
Townshend also used his SXSW visit to announce the launch of The Method, a new interactive Internet service that will allow users to collaborate on customized songs with Townshend and other professional songwriters. The Method is slated to be launched in April. By submitting some personal information, Townshend said the service would create a unique musical "picture" that will result in "an authentic portrait" of the user.
"The idea that this music is elaborated," he explained. "We gather, we share our music with each other, and we see what we sound like. It might sound terrible."