SXSW, Prologue: Pilgrimage to the American Indies

SXSW, indeed the mecca of indie music, attracted traveling musicians, fans, journalists, and industry professionals worldwide, collecting energy, minds, and talent in the close proximity of 10 blocks in downtown Austin in Texas. With my partner-in-crime Carey, I made the pilgrimage despite missing our flight out of Richmond Airport at 6am Wednesday morning. Surely everyone else was flocking to Austin, Texas that day. Impossible it seemed; my brother Kevin said to me, “just make it Texas. I will take care of the rest.” Determined to go to Austin [particularly considering that I missed a conference paper presentation at the Society of American Music meeting in Denver for SXSW], we decided to buy another plane ticket out of an airport 1.5 hours east of Richmond to fly to any city in Texas.

Taking a 36-hour detour transiently passing through airports in Norfolk, Newark (Yes, New Jersey), crossing the US east coast terrain, we flew to Dallas, where Kevin lives. Responding to my text, Kevin said, “welcome to Texas. You’re now only 3.5 hours away from your final destination.” We spent the night with Kevin in the Dallas suburbs, Plano. On his way to work the next morning, Kevin dropped us off in a strip mall in Plano, in front of a coffeeshop called Boba Latte with a not-so-promising sign “opening soon.” We went inside the Asia World Market building and camped out in front of the grocery store while waiting for our ride with Carri, my brother’s former roommate.

strip mall TX stop #1: Outside Asia World Market and the pending-to-open Boba Latte

Carri found herself a couple of SXSW hitchhikers from Virginia after posting a Facebook status message about going to Austin. Carri is an e-commerce marketing freelancer whose job gives her the flexibility to manage her own work and leisure time. On her way to visit friends in Austin, Carri picked us up and stowed our in-cabin carry-on bags in the trunk of her economy-sized Hyundai. Riding through Texan pastures and Waco, a dry town where Baylor University lives, we chatted about every Gen-Xer’ social issue and concern: ranging from the sustainable living movement, the global wealth gap, stifling suburban America, democratizing potentials of Internet communication (or lack thereof), privatization of the Federal Reserve [including Carri’s theory of its connection to the past American presidential assassinations]. By the time we got to North Austin, we concluded that we knew so little about our world, and yet we steadfastly held onto our ideals in our respective seemingly under-achieving occupations.

Strip mall TX stop #2: Whole Foods

Carri dropped us off at a giant up-scale shopping center where Whole Foods and REI converge to attract the health-conscious 30-or-40-something-year-old working (and non-working) dwellers in North Austin. In the café area serving Jamba Juice and various organic fastfood items, we waited for our friend Alison who snuck away from her network-engineering job at University of Texas to claim our run-down bodies and baggage, and hurriedly bused us to the east side of downtown Austin to catch a 5:25 show by Asobi Seksu.

This concludes our 36-hour, Do-It-Yourself air-and-ground-travel to SXSW. Many thanks to Kevin, Carri, and Alison for making our trip to Austin possible!!

Stay tuned for "part 1" of the YellowBuzz SXSW report. View the SXSW flickr set.

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