SXSW, Part 4: Meeting Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event

The last of my adventures at SXSW was meeting Steven Chen, the guitarist of L.A.-based The Airborne Toxic Event. The band just signed with Mercury Records. When I found out about their SXSW appearance, I sent a message to TATE's manager. Steven wrote back expressing eagerness to help with my project. We made plans to meet at the Driskill, a hotel on highly adorned classical architecture one block away from 6th Street in downtown Austin. On Saturday, I texted TATE's manager when I arrived at the hotel. He apologized that the band was running behind their schedule and was still at the Rolling Stone interview. I waited. [I think I saw James Iha in that same hotel lobby.]

My connection to Steven Chen makes a fun story. My cousins Pete and Dan grew up in Arcadia near L.A. Last summer when I visited them in California, I told them about my dissertation topic on American indie rock musicians of Asian descent. Pete said that I should talk to Steven Chen, a family friend who got his first guitar lessons from Pete. Pete apparently helped Steven pick out his first guitar when he was a kid.

Steven, the rest of his band, and their manager eventually showed up. He introduced me to TATE. We sat down at the bar and chatted for almost an hour. He told me stories about his Taiwanese parents and their expectations, as well as his former career in music writing and masters thesis project on Asian American filmmakers. We had a fabulous time exchanging stories about our careers, families, and perspectives on Asian American social issues.

I unfortunately missed TATE's performance that day because I had to catch a flight out of Austin. I found two really good SXSW pictures of Steven (taken by Joshua Hammond) on another blog. I look forward to seeing them perform in the near future. Rock on, Steven!


Mary L. Chang said...

Hi Wendy - sounds like you had a great chat with Steven at SXSW, thanks for sharing. in a previous life I considered singer/songwriter as a career but gave it up in favor of a more "sensible" one...

as an ABC, I am intrigued by the subject of your dissertation - especially in light of parental approval/disapproval of their children getting involved with music as a career and not just a hobby. good luck with your research!

wh said...

thanks for reading the blog! Yea, the generational issue is a big part of my research. I've found some interesting ways in which APA musicians negotiate that. Some more successful than others. I hope to blog about that sometime in the near future.

I'm glad that you're interested in my dissertation research. It's always encouraging to hear that, especially to hear about the relevance of my academic research.

Mary L. Chang said...

I'd be definitely interested to learn what you've found in the process of research - my dad was always supportive of whatever music I was into and didn't mind that I would spend $$$ on my "hobby." my mom, not so much! of my Asian friends, I'm the only one who's really into music, which makes gig-going often times uncomfortable.

are you at UVa? I'll email you privately soon so I won't spam your blog here any further :)

wh said...

Yea, I'd like to hear more about that. Still at UVa. Email me at my gmail account: wendy.f.hsu [at] gmail.com.

Looking forward to chatting more about it.