Austin-town, here we come

A few Fridays back at some local bar, the conversation gravitated towards South by Southwest. We at okc.net had been gathering our resources, rallying the gang, and personally, it was one of the biggest things on my mind at the moment. Grace Gordon felt the same – she’d been working on this for the past month or so. She had been a part of of the group setting up Buffalo Lounge, an Oklahoma showcase event going on all week in a bar called Friends just off the mainstages at SXSW. She had a zilliion things on her plate, but this really got her going.

As much as I’d like to say my writing accurately conveys what we sounded like (and reversely, as much as I’d like to say we Don’t sound like this), the dialogue below is more a collection of conversations that took place over time, certainly not verbatim. I’m gonna foolishly suggest you pretend these voices come from hand-puppets magically balancing martinis- it may sound a bit better:

“Hey, Liz!”

“Hey, Grace!”

“South by Southwest is gonna be Awesome!”

“For Realz! Its almost here!”

“It sure is! The people I’m working with are amazing!”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah! We’ve got this team, the Idea Collective, who’ve been handling the decoration and physical setup! They’re straight outta Norman, and they’re such great people – Damn, Liz! I just wanna tell everyone about them!”

“Go On!”

“They’ve got the whole place laid out in a crazy way – there’s these walls of TVs, and interactive stations! They even put up power outlets everywhere to get people into the venue itself! Their decorations are gonna blow your mind!”

“I’ve gotta see this! It sounds nuts! I’ve never even Been to SXSW!” (please, as you read, imagine me spelling out s-x-s-w. oh, the written word…)

“Yeah, you’re gonna LOVE it. I’m really pumped. Sometimes people tell me I get Too excited about things!”

“Oh, hell no, I dig the heck outta this! You get me hyped up in just the right way. It’s catching, y’know?”

“Good! Man, I’m so excited for you guys, too! There’s so much you can cover, in so many awesome ways! You should just go bonkers – Gonzo journalism to the Max!”

“I Know!! I wanna get everyone to just go berserk! I’m gonna be editing my ass off, but I love it! Let’s push creative limits! I’ve never had an opportunity like this!”

Truth: it’s these opportunities that keep my life exciting as all getout.

Dare: Grace came to us about a month ago with the information that, as Press Ambassador(!), she could get us passes to the Buffalo Lounge. At that point, we didn’t really know what that entailed, but we knew we had just been handed a golden key. Everyone got hooked on the idea that this was the Thing to Do, so we started thinking about SXSW in a realistic light. This was the road trip we’d all been waiting for.

***

Myths of sxsw have already been in my head for the better portion of a decade.

I met a girl named Renata the semester I moved to Massachusetts for school. She was a friend of a friend of a friend I’d known since playground days, and she hailed from just outside Austin, Texas. The first instance I was in Renata’s dorm room, I noticed Tiny Tall Tales on her bookshelf, a 1950’s children’s storybook I’d grown up with, and my dad before me. This was the case for her and her parents, too. The coincidence inspired us to read aloud from the book to each other, in the same way we’d been read to when we were smaller people. Sometimes we’d read aloud from books with other folks who wanted in on the childhood game (this practice served me well as a camp counselor trying to put a cabin of fourteen-year-old nightowls to bed), and sometimes we’d just go through each other’s photo stash if we wanted to get personal. In due course, Renata showed me her collection of South by Southwest photos from the late nineties. She painted a Tall Tale wonderland of human celebration, and I loved every minute of her story.

Music festival stories are a part of most everyone’s upbringing, I’m sure. My mom is a person who (still) wishes she had gone to Woodstock. I know its awful cheesy coming from a person who wasn’t even a twinkle in her parents eyes when all that went down, but there will always be a part of me that wishes I could have been there, too. Music festivals have a powerful appeal in general – the opportunity is ripe for baring yourself (literally or figuratively) to an accepting environment, experimenting with altered states of consciousness, and enjoying the company of widely varied personalities. This is what I saw when Renata told me about SXSW, of course – another chance to be a part of the fun.

Unfortunately, even in recent years living nearer to Texas than I ever have before, neither proximity nor the allure of festival shenanigans have been a powerful enough draw for me to get off my arse and take the trek down to Austin. I, like most of you, spend too much time entrenched in self-assigned obligations – namely, keeping myself from burning a dang hole in my wallet. Back in 1969, Mom felt something similar when she decided she’d better keep her job at HoJo’s and sit this one out. Even though she didn’t go, she calls herself a “hippie sympathizer,” which is to say that she feels sometimes as though she’d like to be among people who make life decisions that are more geared towards exploration than routine. I’m not the kind of gal who relies on routine by any stretch of the imagination – far from it, really. But as powerful as the pull of the road may be, I usually need some convincing to break into a sense of adventure. When folks start talking about road trips (road trips to Anywhere, mind you), I am always of two minds: “Good God Damn, I Want IN on that,” and “Good God Damn, where the hell am I going to find that kind of cash or time?” If there’s enough enthusiasm coming from other people, I line up my ducks and book it. Southwest, northeast, huge circles, you name it, I love driving around. I just have to see the possibilities.

When I say this is the road trip we’ve all been waiting for, I mean it. The Tall Tale from Renata has grown even Taller over time – it’s not just a music festival at all anymore. People come back each year with better stories. At first, it was just The Place To Be: soon after I moved here, I met some OKC friends who paid off some cops with little to no money in Mexico (having been detained for a sack of grass) just to get to the festival in time to be a part of it. Then I realized that this had become an expansive conceptualization spanning the whole entertainment industry – those friends came back the next year talking about all the amazing comedy, music, and films they’d seen. Last year, it became apparent just how deep you could go into cultural investigation on the cheap – one of my best friends followed the Muffs around for an entire day gathering footage and recordings, and only ever spent money on gas. I see the possibilities, and they’re very persuasive.

***

Today, Lots is going on.

As you may have guessed, Grace Gordon’s enthusiasm has been part of the powerhouse behind our adventurous spirit. New things are happening for the Oklahoma Film and Music Office and the Tourism Department – this is the first year Buffalo Lounge exists. They’ve been represented at SXSW since 2005, but only this year have they been able to score their own venue. They’re taking full advantage of it, too – every day this week (March 14th to 17th), they have something awesome on the books. Monday is the Red Dirt Reel party, a gathering for film industry insiders (and inquisitive, oddball reporters) to hype up the perks of filming here, like the 37% cash-back rebate, and expansive location availability. Later that night, the OpenBeta6 folks will be giving a series of interactive presentations on entrepreneurial opportunities in Oklahoma – some great speakers like Becky McCray and Kent Savage will be there. The party will extend into the next day, and transition into the music portion of their event. From the 15th to the 17th, Oklahoma musicians like Brine Webb, Josh Roberts, Ryan Lawson, The SKYS, Jabee, Jacob Abello, Rainbows are Free, DEERPEOPLE, The Non, John Fullbright, Sherree Chamberlain, Emory Grey, Ben Kilgore, Fiawna Forte, Kite Flying Robot, Audra Mae, and folks signed on OK-based label Tate Music Group will bring the house down, all day long. They have SXSW evening showcases on the 16th and 17th for those fortunate enough to have SXSW-wide badges, featuring Graham Colton, Broncho, Colourmusic, Pretty Black Chains, OK Sweetheart, and the Boom Bang. They’ll have merch to the max, and a stash of Okie swag bags until they run out.

New things are happening at okc.net, now too (as always); this will be our first foray as a group into the wilds of Austin. We’ll be posting the OKC-etc-based content you’ve become familiar with, and we’re shooting to post a couple Austin-based SXSW pieces a day from the road. Our content may be unlike anything you’ve seen on the site so far, or it may feel more familiar – we’re all heading into this with open minds and hearts. Some of us will use Twitter to microblog the heck out of everything (as has been said on our staff boards, like Charlie Sheen on a 5-day bender); some of us will probably follow our favorite musicians from Buffalo Lounge or elsewhere and try to score an interview or two or three; some of us may write about Austin’s other attractions. Along for the ride is Colin Newman, the creator of okc.net and Executive Editor; Danny Marroquin, a schoolteacher by day and wordsmith by night; Holly Leach, who bakes by night and writes by day; Sean Murphy, a rock-and-roll Dad and co-owner of Handmade With Heart; Rachel Cagigal, a remarkable photographer, auto mechanic, and conversationalist; Matt Cowley, the former college radio DJ who took that inspiration to interview the Muffs and ran with it; and Randy Heyer, a musician, writer, and pizza-delivery expert with hilarious performative tendencies. The gang is gearing up for a busy week, starting today.

Tall Tales have their way of becoming Taller tales, and this is getting to be a giant. I’m still amazed we’ve collectively decided to take the plunge; it’s a rare occasion that an eight-person road trip ends up actually happening. It’s the kind of thing my mom might be proud of, in her own way. The possibilities right now feel endless. By the time you read this, we’ll probably be cruisin’ down I-35, comparing notes on what’s coming up and getting to know each other.

It’s an adventure for the books, for the storytellers – for okc.net.

(c) Liz Drew All rights reserved. Contact Liz through the emailz! btw, LINKS TO EVERYTHING FORTHCOMING – CHECK BACK SOON!

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