My SXSW

Arash Rahbary (TarantisT)

My SXSW

In 2005, I sent an e-mail to some contacts: "TarantisT new website is up."

January 2007, back from European tour, checking e-mails:

Subject: RE: "TarantisT new website is up"

Body: You can play at SXSW if you like.

Hey Arsalan (guitar), we are invited to SXSW. Band members need to pass military service, and we'll need a guest guitarist and drummer. Phone calls and e-mails back and forth; band members, Festival organizers, attorneys, visa agencies. It's March, and we miss the show.

An e-mail from the Festival: yes you can next year.

Now we have a year. Everything will be arranged and well prepared for 2008. We audition guest members. Nightmare of visa process starts. A hundred e-mails per day, mostly negative and nonsense responses. No life, no job, no money ... I'm in the band!

Preparing needed paperwork, again and again. Our visa as an "internationally recognized band" is approved, but we need to interview at the U.S. embassy. There is no embassy here in Iran. Go to Dubai; they have no available time. It's March 2008. Somebody offers appointment slots for $100 each! We give him $500 and go home. When we go back for the interview, every other applicant is dressed up. We're four guys in jeans and T-shirts. Finger-printing, answering questions, waiting.

TarantisT, welcome to the United States. Your visa will be issued after security clearance process, which takes a week to 60 days, but you probably will have it by end of this week. There is hope. We can make it this year! Almost all the other applicants were rejected. But we're missing a visa. We miss our showcase at SXSW and have a small gig in a desert near Dubai instead.

New Year passes again, and the shows I arranged by myself go by: New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles. One of five visas becomes available. San Francisco, other Bay Area shows. Three more are ready. But my visa is missing! I am the contact person, I am the frontman – my name is on the papers more than the name of the band! Our Dubai visa expires again.

A day after leaving Dubai, my passport goes to the embassy, visa sticks in it, and then the passport comes back to me. Wrong type of visa?! Back to Dubai again, guys to Istanbul. New proper visa, flight to Istanbul. Tickets to New York, then Los Angeles. Spent almost $10,000 so far. $200 left in my pocket. Dark world, a thick beam of light flickers. Los Angeles, summer, 115 degrees. Riding a bicycle through the city to arrange gigs on my own, including the Whisky a Go Go, the Knitting Factory, and the Viper Room.

Standing alone with tons of problems; the guest guitarist and drummer need to return home to solve family and military problems, and I need to find musicians in Los Angeles with less than a month to prepare.

March 2009, Los Angeles: Ticket to Austin, band is ready to rock. Hard. We have a warm-up show in Los Angeles, lots of friends to be there. Tomorrow morning flight to Austin, and TarantisT will finally have arrived!


Showcase: Friday, March 20, Club 115, 10pm.

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