South by Southwest (France)

It's that time again, when everyone and their brother heads to Austin for South by Southwest. Well, not exactly everyone although at least one of my brothers will be there.

It's been a few years since I spent a small fortune to play, listen, talk, drink, eat and generally make my presence known to those who already know me at everybody's favorite waste of time. I've lost count of how many years I went and I still get a little pang thinking about it, missing it even. Not as some big career opportunity, even though I always enjoyed when I'd finally play my show in varying circumstances (an Irish pub, a daiquiri factory, a tandoori restaurant are a few of the ersatz venues that spring to mind). But just as surely as the swallows come back to Capistrano in March, so all the people I know who've hung in there in music forever (never mind the hundreds of new bands) reward themselves with a trip to Austin - especially valuable when you live in the frozen north. You wonder why people don't treat themselves to a cabin in the woods or beach shack weekend somewhere. But aren't we creatures of habit, even the most out-there musician types?

I tell myself that I'm not missing too much by forgoing a chance to hoist a lukewarm beer in the back garden of Yard Dog while one or several of my singer/songwriter buddies dazzles the crowd. I'd probably be worrying about how each year it gets increasingly terrifying to see and be seen in the harsh afternoon light, especially after two or three days of drinking and eating greasy barbq and Mexican food.

But I know that there'd be a point where I'd forget the self-consciousness and stop wondering if there was someone else I should be saying hello to and get a warm glow. Possibly related to some kind of chemical substance, but a happy feeling nonetheless that I'm still here dammit and still loving to play and hear other people play.

It's funny that the last time I was there was the last time Eric was there (2005, I think?) We kept trying to see each other but it wasn't meant to be. Now we're together here at SXSW France and playing together. When I think about it, it's really not so different from Austin.

There's this big chateau, which is kinda like the Four Seasons hotel - impermeable unless you're extremely successful or on someone else's tab:

There's smoked meat, eaten outdoors:

This pretty little river flowing nearby:

This bridge, almost like the Congress Street bridge but without all the tattoos and haircuts:

And always some place (gig, party, bar, restaurant) that is possibly better than the one you're at right then.

You get the idea. The only thing missing is the people. And the Shiner Bock.