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How I spent my spring break

Sxsw I saw all or part of 43 bands at South by Southwest last week, but the most intriguing part of the trip might have been a Q&A by Pete Townshend, the only original member of the Who currently standing. In addition to dispensing career advice and telling anecdotes, Townshend announced something he called The Method. Details were sketchy, but what it boils down to is Web-based software that creates highly personalized songs -- the program generates music by processing the data people provide about themselves. There's likely to be a fee associated with it (the flyer on our seats talked about the service being available to "subscribers"). On the plus side, Townshend said that the individuals who "sit" for the Method software will hold 1/3 of the copyright to the ensuing music. Townshend has been thinking about doing this since the "Lifehouse" days -- the rock opera that was largely shelved in favor of "Who's Next." The whole thing is scheduled to launch with a press conference and webcast April 25, but there's a MySpace site on this topic already.

As for the music, my week was typified by what happened late Friday night. I was amid a giant sea of humanity at Stubbs for The Good, the Bad and the Queen, arguably the biggest act playing that evening, and I wasn't exactly transported into groove heaven. So after four or five turgid tracks I ran down the street to join a sparse crowd of 20 or so fans at Parish II, where Tullycraft was about halfway through its set of head-bobbing twee-pop gold. The Tullys delivered on the promise of live music (albeit in a no-animals-harmed-in-the-making-of-this-indie-pop-record kind of way) much better than TGTB&TQ did -- more than just raising the volume, they breathed life into the songs on their records. With that in mind, I'd say my other favorite shows were by, in no particular order: Peter, Bjorn and John (who rocked surprisingly hard); hypnotic +/-; the ever-reliable Sloan (who always rock like it's 1975); the astounding Kid Koala; Fujiya & Miyagi; The Cinematics; Sparklehorse; The Broken West; Amy Winehouse; The Rapture; Youth Group; Thomas Dolby (playing a number of hits, but sadly nothing from "The Flat Earth"); Dallas Crane; Great Northern and The Blakes. My main regrets: watching Razorlight made me miss half of the WinterKids' set, and going to see a disappointing Parisian two-piece instead of trying to get into Field Music, a not-so-obscure British three-piece. Then again, I wound up rawking out to the Blakes, so the story ended well.

For the Rashomon effect, check out blog posts from my two companions on the trip: Dan Hontz and Bill Goodykoontz. The did a much better job keeping track of our food and beer intake. And yes, that movie is a bit older than we are. But the next time I go to SxSW, I'm taking my AARP card.


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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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