ATX6 Makes It to Asia and Back All in One Piece
Local music ambassadors “made it in and out just in time”
By Leslie Sisson,
4:20PM, Wed. Mar. 11, 2020
Anyone who knows me knows I’m an open book, especially when it comes to challenges and anxieties. This didn’t manifest until a series of traumatic events changed my life nine years ago, causing PTSD that I’ve been recovering and healing from thanks to my musical outlet, Moving Panoramas.
A decade ago, I toured nonstop, flying around the continent and overseas with ease. In 2010, I recall a terrifying red-eye flight on a smaller jet that lost altitude and found my bandmate and I exchanging is-this-it? looks like the Seinfeld finale. I continued to fly without worry, but once PTSD began in 2011, things I used to do all the time, like flying or riding in a van, became trickier.
It’s improved over the years, but when asked to join Project ATX6, I realized I hadn’t flown since 2016. Time usually heals, but in this case, traveling less intensified my fear of getting on a small jet to Toronto last fall with this group. Those feelings doubled last month for our 15-hour flight to Tokyo, six-hour flight to Bangkok, and 12-hour overnight drive to Chiang Mai (while the driver pulled over to nap), totaling 36 straight travel hours before going directly to play a show in Thailand on 48 hours of no sleep.
Additionally, days before our departure, we started hearing of a coronavirus in Asia. When we left the country, only one or two cases existed in Japan, Thailand, and the U.S. The chance of sharing an airport or airplane with this virus wasn’t something we wrapped our heads around until we headed home a week later – the week that the doctor who discovered the virus died from it and the world realized how serious the situation’s become.
Had future Leslie told past Leslie all of this, past Leslie might have bailed – although, hopefully, future Leslie would’ve mentioned how positively life-changing Thailand proved.
I swam with free-roaming elephants in an ethical jungle sanctuary. I played drums on a huge festival stage. And at the Jai Thep Festival, fans danced their hearts out to “Baby Blues” at the end of our set.
We made friends from all over and spent the greatest final night in Tokyo maximizing a handful of overnight layover hours. The beautiful, kind cultures of the East inspired dreams of retiring there, or at least returning. My first time in Asia makes me hope it’s not my last, especially since Japan Airlines makes flying a breeze.
At all times we wore surgical masks that became scarce and hard to find while washing/sanitizing nonstop and luckily not falling ill. Although intense jet lag set us back weeks upon returning, sometimes sleeping for days remains the best medicine. Eventually we all bounced back – thankfully.
If future Leslie told past Leslie all this, I still would’ve done it because present Leslie says it was all worth it.
That said, if we were leaving tomorrow – as the world tips into a global pandemic – present Leslie would’ve reconsidered. I’m glad it didn’t come to that. We seemed to have made it in and out of Asia just in time.
ATX6 isn’t a regular tour with the usual bands. We learn each others’ songs with minimal rehearsals during travels to foreign lands with folks we don’t know very well. Unlike longer touring stretches, this trek compressed into a few very cool international shows. And believe me, for musicians, that sort of travel never, ever resembles a vacation.
Imagine lugging equipment not to downtown Austin, but through travel hubs far away – on planes, on trains, and in automobiles.
Some people in our group had never toured. Some hadn’t even played outside of Austin. One-man ATX 6 runner Chris Brecht documented much of it with a camera in our periphery.
As a nonprofit shouldered primarily by one person, ATX6 guarantees no one’s in it for the money. We all did it for this very unique experience to travel, collaborate, and play internationally with new artists across multiple genres. We gained self-reflection and life-changing moments that help us grow not only as musicians but as humans.
All that while, we represented the great city of Austin, bringing our diverse music to other corners of the world and bringing home new stories, like this one.
For me, I went in worrying and am grateful to have returned a changed woman with a new group of friends I now consider family. I’ve toured internationally and all over the U.S. for years and I never came home conquering anxieties as I have with Project ATX6. It’s hard to explain in so many words, but if you know me, you know that’s a big deal.
Next stop... England?
After SXSW’s cancellation, our next destination could face similar circumstances in May at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, where multiple cases of COVID-19 already exist. Having déjà vu from our Thailand coronavirus precautions, I’ve dug up hand sanitizer and masks from last month. I’m trying not to let this outbreak cause further anxieties, especially with my autoimmune diseases. At least I have a little practice at this.
I’m saddened for everyone affected by this outbreak physically, emotionally, or financially, especially in our hometown. Although Moving Panoramas lost out on thousands of dollars of guarantees during SX, that pales in comparison to our friends who have lost their jobs and businesses who have lost out on hundreds of thousands more. These are some suddenly frightening times right now.
I’m still not sure what to do with it all except to wash my hands like I did in Thailand and prepare for the unknown.