Obviously, South by Southwest is upon us. Although there are still roughly two weeks until the official kickoff, we have entered the zone where the whole city is getting ready. Here at the Chronicle, as well as at SXSW World Headquarters, decisions need to have been made yesterday (if not even longer ago than that), details accumulate, and problems seem exaggerated by occurring in the context of nonstop work.
This is among the best times of the year, as far as I'm concerned. Given my short attention span (Publisher Nick Barbaro once said, not as a compliment, "You have the attention span of a gnat," but that was insulting to gnats), the ongoing little explosions of crises, projects, decisions, and things that need to be finished are actually somewhat calming and actually entertaining. Nothing is in focus long enough to get boring. After the event, it's postpartum time for me, as just putting out a weekly paper, as well as being involved in any number of other projects, seems dull.
SXSW week is my favorite time. Some other weeks are as good, but none better. If you want, go ahead dismiss this as being totally motivated by financial self-interest, as I'm a SXSW director. It's not true, but isn't that too much a "when did you stop beating your wife" argument in which to even begin to get engaged?
I love the activity, people, music, films, and other events. Creative energies cascade over the city, everywhere, all the time. The town explodes like one of those high school volcano science projects: Events spew out, spreading lava-like over everything in their path. Instead of darkening the sky, however, they fill it with light.
It has never been a secret that the magic ingredient that makes SXSW work is Austin. Any day of the year, everything that goes on during SXSW is still going on here: music, filmgoing, filmmaking, blogging, new media theorizing, interactive utilization, and more. The only difference is that, for 10 days, all these activities are multiplied 10 times over.
One of the best parts of SXSW is watching a band from Japan or Norway, Uzbekistan or Peru, Mexico or Nigeria as they walk down the streets. The looks on their faces are as though they've died and gone to heaven. They seem to be both exhilarated and not quite believing that it's all real. As though they are finding it just a little hard to wrap their heads around the fact that there really is such a place as this. A place with this much music and film, barbecue and Mexican food, cowboy boots and hats. A city populated by friendly, outgoing people who seem as pleased as punch to have them visiting.
(Now, obviously, one could find a large contingent of Austinites who would just as soon the whole thing disappear for a wide, wide range of reasons, but few of those are walking the downtown streets, especially not with beaming faces.)
Expect news and more news, information and more about the bands and films, about the panels and trade shows, about all the SXSW events and the many that spin around it. This issue has a special Music section on the international acts playing SXSW Music Festival. Next week's issue will be devoted to SXSW Interactive, the one after that to SXSW Film, and the one after that to SXSW Music and the Austin Music Awards (as chosen by you). Three special daily Chronicles will follow that issue. The next week, SXSW will be over, and we'll be back to doing what we do week in and week out, all year long. Turning out the best Chronicle we can.
The Music Awards have proven to be the community-authored record of the Austin music scene, and after more than 20 years, we can say you've done a damn fine job of it.
The 2004-2005 Austin Music Awards show is Wednesday evening, March 16, at the Austin Music Hall. The lineup for the show features:
John Cale and Alejandro Escovedo
Hardcore Country All-Stars: Alvin Crow, James White, Pete Mitchell, Neil Flanz, Jason Crow, Danny Young, Jon Kemppainen, Earl Poole Ball, Ariel, Patricia Vonne and more!
The Crickets: Sonny Curtis, J.I. Allison, Joe Mauldin with very special guest Nanci Griffith and the Blue Moon Orchestra!!
I'm obviously especially excited by the last act read my piece on Nanci Griffith in this issue ("There's a Light Beyond These Woods"). But the whole lineup is great and should make for a terrific show.
Also that night (Wednesday, March 16), the city, the mayor, SXSW, and the Chronicle will present a free outdoor screening in conjunction with SXSW Film for the first time. The film of the tsunami benefit headlined by Willie Nelson and featuring an impressive herd of other Austin musicians, conceived and executed by the archangel Michael Hall and held at the Austin Music Hall some weeks back, will be screened. This will be free, open to all (6-8:30pm) at Republic Square Park.
This Chronicle and the next three will be packed with SXSW materials and related information. Lists of bands, movies, and speakers, and details about all of them as well as a lot of other things will be published.
Yes, I'm a director of SXSW, but this event really is all of ours. It works because of the city and people of Austin, Texas. We thank you and look forward to ripping the roof off and proving once again that what a rational mind would say can't be done comes easily here!
Everything kicks off with the beginning of SXSW Film on Friday evening, March 11. Once we start rolling, it just picks up speed until the morning of Monday, March 21, when we awake to find the party over and the carriage once again a pumpkin. But it really is one impressive pumpkin, able to roll majestically through the streets all year long.
The Texas Film Hall of Fame, hosted by the Austin Film Society, is also on Friday evening, March 11, though it is not a SXSW event. This year the Hall of Fame will honor:
Marcia Gay Harden, inducted by Ellen Burstyn
Irma P. Hall, inducted by Joel and Ethan Coen
Dennis Quaid, inducted by Billy Bob Thornton
Robert Rodriguez, inducted by George Lopez
Lauren Bacall, accepting the honors for Written on the Wind, Douglas Sirk's masterpiece about Texas families and Texas oil
Go to www.austinfilm.org or call Wendy Anderson at 322-0145 for more information.
Hunter S. Thompson took his own life this past weekend. For obvious reasons, an army of writers offered to contribute obituaries of him. But really, what is there to say that hasn't been said before or isn't being said elsewhere? Out of deep, heartfelt respect for his writing, his influence, and his life, we'll restrain ourselves and the other writers from either serious analysis of his impact, mature assessments of his writings and contributions, or any gonzo, would-be-HST-style appreciations. All of those should be obvious, and we expect his stature and importance as an American writer to just continue to grow. We will offer that we hope he has finally found peace; that his work, in one way or another, impacted so much of what you read in this publication each week; and, finally, we say, "Thanks for the ride it was splendid!"
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