Even as the Westin's conference ballroom filled to capacity for Al Gore's climate-change presentation, it was not immediately obvious why he was presenting a scientific-leaning climate presentation at a music conference.
One attendee carrying a guitar case walked by the long line of people waiting to go into the conference room, talking to his friend. "Who are they waiting for?"
His friend replied, "Al Gore."
"No shit," said the guitar carrier.
Gore quickly addressed why this discussion of climate change was a good fit for the conference. (He also has a personal connection to one of the conference's organizers.) He explained that when he was a younger man in the 1960s, "folk music played a positive role in resolving the central question in the civil rights movement, as to what was truly right and truly wrong." He hopes for the same with the issue of climate change.
Gore's current presentation shares only a couple of slides from An Inconvenient Truth
- it has been updated to include new data and information about extreme weather events, many of which have happened since the film's release. The atmosphere of our planet, apparently, is 4 percent more humid than it was 30 years ago. He discussed how the Earth's increased humidity and increased temperatures contribute to the intensity of storms like Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey, and how the opposite problem of intense drought in the West and in other areas of the world will contribute to political instability and suffering. It was depressing and scary. But it also was an engrossing presentation. Normally I am unable to focus on any kind of slideshow for longer than three minutes - I just glaze over - but Gore was able to hold the room (and my desperately limited attention span) for more than 90 minutes.
The conference is a pleasure for a music fan - to see so many musicians crowding into conference rooms, playing in lobbies for walkers-by - and it's an unusual experience in a corporate hotel environment, you could say. It's wonderful, in an overwhelming way.
Our first act of the evening was Victor & Penny, a sweet duo from Kansas City that brings ukulele, jazz guitar, dual vocals and old-timey microphones to create that desirable, old-fashioned tinny sound.
Though Erin McCrane (formerly of Alacartoona) noted that her voice was raspy from a weekend of singing and yelling, she and bandmate Jeff Freling charmed the modest crowd. Freling's dextrous picking on the jazz guitar earns high marks. Down the hall, Jeff Black, also from Kansas City, played to a packed Penn Valley room. Out in the hallway, Betse Ellis and Howard Iceberg quietly played together, seemingly just for their own pleasure.