Art & Commerce: 2009 Vermont Business Expo and the Spielpalast Cabaret

The official swag bag for the Vermont Business and Industry Expo, made in China, like most tsotchkes being given away by exhibitors at the venue... and many, many other things these days.

I first attended this trade show back in 1996, working as an exhibitor. I kept at this through the frothy, bubbly late 90's, which were the heyday of dot com boom, a period when the show was completely sold out, and one year there was even a tent set up in the parking lot to cope with exhibitor demand. Even as I have subsequently changed employers I have usually made it over to check out the venue in the following years, it is a way to reconnect with some of the people I have worked with in the past, as well as a quick snapshot of what's hot and what's not -- the big telecom/Internet/web marketing frenzy of the late 90's has noticeably cooled. It is also quite remarkable, how little some things change, at the venue, I felt like a fly preserved in amber, ready to step into a booth and start conversing about small business web hosting packages, dial up Internet access, and delivering dedicated Internet access via frame relay or ISDN (dating myself).

Because my current (soon to be 'former', or at least 'on hiatus') employer needs to diversify, I also attended the lunch presentation by Van Jones, President Obama's "Green Jobs Czar", who used his speechifying opportunity to fulsomely praise Vermont, its business climate, and the state's congressional delegation. All in all the atmosphere at this event was akin to a religious revival, albeit a camp meeting not for condemned sinners flirting with damnation, but for the smug, sanctimonious and already-saved, as the crowd interrupted the speech with applause several times, and there was a resounding standing ovation at its conclusion, and there was a palpable air of mutual self-congratulation in the room. I wish I could think more optimistically about the future but I really found the atmosphere annoying, especially as the speech was quite non-specific and avoided any mention of costs or necessary sacrifices needed to reduce carbon emissions and achieve energy independence.

After meandering around the trade show for a few more hours I did go see the 2009 Spielpalast Cabaret which was a rather more enjoyable experience. I had my camera with me, although sans batteries, so I just left it the car, which was probably just as well, the DSLR is big, clunky, kind of loud, and temperamental when trying to capture moving objects (ie, cabaret girls) in dim light.

The show was very entertaining but one thing that surprised me was that it was very non-topical, the present economic situation was not referenced except in passing. Considering that the Spielpalast troupe self-consciously recalls the cabaret culture of Weimar Germany (a time when currency lost all value, banknotes were used fuel), I expected that news of mass layoffs, foreclosures, devaluations, hyperinflation, downward mobility, etc. would have provided limitless fodder for an array of musical numbers, but this really wasn't the case. Anyhow, it was an excellent show with a great band, and perhaps being more escapist and non-topical made it easier to forget the Sturm und Drang of the outside word for at least a couple of hours.

Also, I noted that the Vengeance Aria from the Magic Flute was incorporated into the show, which gave me pause, because I used it as backing for this clip from 2007... I suppose it could be just serendipity (it's a very famous aria), or perhaps in some small way I inadvertently made a creative contribution to the show, if that is the case, I can die happy now.

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