My SXSW

My SXSW

Ahh, Austin, the Paris of Texas (with apologies to Paris, Texas). This is my fourth SXSW, and maybe this time I'll get to see some music. Maybe not.

I arrived late Wednesday, checked into my hotel, and had dinner. Woo-hoo. Thursday morning and early afternoon were interviews, and getting ready for the Big Show on Friday night. I got handed some band leaflets and at least one demo and posed for a photo with a fan who apologized for "acting like a goofball." For the record, asking me to take a photo with you is not acting like a goofball. Asking me to come home with you and bake you cookies before tucking you in is acting like a goofball.

So why am I here? Meaning, not in-the-universe here but in-Austin-the-Paris-of-Texas here. At last year's SXSW, my wife, the singer-songwriter Judith Owen, and I sowed the seeds of an indie record company. Last summer, the seeds sprouted into a Courgette. That's the name of our little firm, the word being the British name for a vegetable we all know as the zucchini. (Hello, Cleveland!) We got major-label distribution, and we're about to release a CD and DVD of mine, following Judith's CD from last fall, Lost and Found.

Which is a long and self-promoting way of saying that I'm here to host a live version of my long-running radio program Le Show from the Central Presbyterian Church on Friday, 6pm. Le Show is heard all over the country, including College Station and Odessa, but not, apparently, in Austin. I guess it's not a big college town. Anyway, it's an hour of music and comedy, and it's usually done by me all alone in a dark studio, the way radio, like sex, is meant to be done. This week, we'll have an audience – I'm hoping we'll have an audience, otherwise we'll have a big empty church – and guest musicians, including the great Henry Butler and John Boutte from New Orleans and the great Lyle Lovett from around here somewhere. It'll be more like A Prairie Home Companion, except that I probably won't inhale loudly through my nose and poke gentle fun at Lutherans.

So I'm spending my Thursday trying to find a piano to rehearse on, and I'm answering a bunch of questions like "What's it like now in New Orleans?" since I'm a part-time resident down there. Well, it's great and it's terrible, depending on what block you're on, and you can ask Mark Samuels, another record-company honcho from New Orleans who's in town this week, what it's like dealing with FEMA and the SBA and all the rest of the helpers, and don't blame New Orleans for the fact that so much of the news coverage of the disaster seems so emotionally manipulative. You can blame Anderson and Brian for that.

But just a word of advice: if you ever need a good strong levee built, maybe don't call the US Army Corps of Engineers.


Harry Shearer's Le Show, as stated above, broadcasts live from the Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. Eighth, on Friday, beginning at 6pm.

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