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SXSW Day 4 – Of Jay-Z, Al Gore and Billy Corgan

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Wow! What an incredibly inspiring day! Any one of these three people would have been enough in their own right, but that I got to experience something from each of them all on one day? That’s what South by Southwest, I’m quickly learning, is all about.

Let’s start with this – shall we?

Jay-Z took to the stage at the Austin City Limits Live venue, for the American Express SynchShow. Tickets were free as long as you had an American Express card – thank you Matthew Hensrud , and it was the perfect way to unofficially start the Music portion of SXSW, which officially gets under way Tuesday.

Hova punched his way through his repertoire – giving us all the favourites, like 99 Problems, Girls, Girls, Girls, Dirt Off Your Shoulder and Run This Town. To hear him perform Glory live, in honour of his newly-born baby Blue Ivy, was but one of the many highlights. Another was most definitely Empire State of Mind, which was extra special for me, having been in the city now for over a year. When the track was over, he tipped his cap to the audience, took off his shades and walked away. Of course, there was the Encore encore – after giving a shout-out to Mike Shinoda and Linkin Park who he told us were in the house.

Another great segue-way into Music Week was the interview of Billy Corgan by social media guru Brian Solis. The Smashing Pumpkins frontman is really tall – especially next to the diminutive Brian – and he was with his usual trademark scarf around his neck. I really liked what he had to say about fans and the role they have to play now in turning the tide against the mediocrity that exists in music today. If you like a band, let the world know – re-tweet them, share their Facebook page – something! He posed a very pertinent question: why aren’t there 5/6 monolithic bands putting Smashing Pumpkins to shame?

I was really fired up after he spoke, and Billy’s words generated quite a bit of debate among the people I was standing with to get into the Al Gore / Sean Parker presentation afterwards.

From there it was onto former US Vice President, and the man who would be President, Al Gore. He, together with Napster founder and Justin Timberlake muse Sean Parker, outlined their vision for democracy and the role they want social media to play in helping to strengthen it, especially heading towards the US election in November later this year.

Gore is a really passionate speaker, as I remember from meeting him in Joburg in 2010, and it was at times a little hard for Parker to get a word in edge-ways but they both had some great points about using social media cred to do more than just build farms and play games. Parker called the SOPA/PIPA issue the nerd version of the Arab Spring. You can read more in my piece for Memeburn.

The day ended just how this post started – in the company of Jay-Z.

Like I said, perfect.

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