Not to take away from Salesforce poobah Marc Benioff, who is pretty entertaining, but I was okay with not attending Dreamforce 15 in person this week. Live streaming was fine until Stevie Wonder showed up on stage and suddenly made me wish I’d made the cross-country trek.
After the performance of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” (unfortunately adapted to include Salesforce (CRM) references), Benioff asked the audience if Wonder should keep playing in lieu of the planned keynote. Applause indicated that was their preference. “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Benioff quipped before starting his keynote.
And we were back in trade show mode.
One of the perks of covering tech (and putting up with conferences) is the entertainment. Over the years I’ve seen Tony Bennett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Shawn Colvin, and Chris Martin. A personal favorite was the Bare Naked Ladies and Macy Gray at an EDS event at Comdex. That’s going back to the pre-cloud and pre-app era when Carly Fiorina was known as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and not a Republican presidential hopeful.
Another highlight: Ray Charles and Gladys Knight playing a Lotus Development anniversary gala at the old Boston Garden. Big regrets were missing Sting and Roger Daltrey at Oracle (ORCL) OpenWorld.
Polling colleagues and friends in the industry, here’s a list of some other trade show/musical highlights:
- U2 playing “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” at the Apple (AAPL) iPhone 6 event last year.
- Paul McCartney at HP Discover in 2011
- Van Halen at SAP (SAP) Sapphire (David Lee Roth sang so hard the band had to nix the rest of their tour)
- An acoustic performance by Maroon 5 at a Qualcomm (QCOM) Consumer Electronics Show keynote two years ago
- DeadMau5, Usher, Jane’s Addiction, and Eminem at Activision’s (ATVI) E3 event in 2010.
- The Killers at VMware’s (VMW) VMworld 2011
- Aerosmith at IBM (IBM) Interconnect last year
- Billy Idol at Google I/O in 2013
- Weezer at another Qualcomm event was “surprisingly good live” according to another former colleague
- Skrillex at Amazon’s (AMZN) AWS Re:Invent last year
Not too shabby.
The upside of all this is hearing sometimes-great live music that makes the vendor sales pitches and associated B.S. a little easier to take.
At an outdoor event at Comdex years ago, a group sat behind the MGM Grand when there was still a mini-amusement park there. It was a beautiful breezy night with folks at cafe tables drinking wine and waiting for the Subdudes and Lyle Lovett to come on.
“We’re very lucky,” said a former Gartner (IT) analyst. “Some people have to work for a living.”
The downside, as one colleague put it, is seeing the musical heroes of your youth sell out before your eyes.
For more on music and tech, check out the video below.
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