South by Southwest Diary: Dining with Kona and Sabrina
On the ground in Austin
Photo courtesy South by Southwest/Jeff Picard
A view of Austin’s busy 6th Street during last year’s South by Southwest Conference.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts by Star-Bulletin staff writer Gary C.W. Chun filed from Austin, Texas, the location of the annual South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conference. He plans to post his observations of the conference and its surrounding events daily until Sunday.
By Gary C.W. Chun
AUSTIN, Tex. » Even though it was the end of a long traveling day for Kona Chang and Sabrina Velazquez, there was no denying their building excitement to showcase their music in three days at the prestigious South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conference later this week.
Both they and their traveling companions left Honolulu on Sunday evening with stopovers in Dallas and Houston, respectively, and caught separate connecting flights to Austin yesterday. They all met up Monday night in Austin’s busy downtown district, filled with bars and nightclubs which usually provide nightlife options for students from the University of Texas.
The evening started off with beers and food from a Tex-Mex buffet at Chupacabra, just off the busy main drag of Sixth Street. The streets were filled with a confluence of SXSW attendees — those wrapping up their attendance at the Interactive portion of the conference that started last Thursday, people who’ve been going to the ongoing Film conference’s panels and screenings, and a relative few getting an early start on the Music conference that starts in full on Wednesday.
Chang, his percussionist of four years Jean-Denis St. Onge, Velazquez, her sister and stylist Aña Monique, and Velazquez’s accompanist Ryan Miyashiro talked story during their meal out on the restaurant’s “lanai” on a cold, rainy and gusty night where the weather could seemingly change at a drop of a dime.
Ever the local boys, Chang and St. Onge related humorous first impressions of being in Austin. In the cab on the way to their hotel, both of them told their cabbie that the area had “choke birds,” much to puzzlement of the driver.
“And where are the mountains,” Chang added. “There’s only flatlands.”
The two of them did have a coincidental, if fortuitous meet with some musicians earlier at baggage claim. They made friends with Jason Mraz’s horn section, who warmed to the island connection since Paula Fuga had earlier toured with Mraz. Phone numbers were exchanged.
After dinner, the group walked down to the intersection of Trinity and 2nd, where they were happy to find that the locations of their Friday showcases were only a few yards away from each other. Placed conveniently in front of the Austin Convention Center, where the music conference starts tomorrow, were Roy’s restaurant and the Submerged lounge. Transitioning from the happy hour gig at Roy’s to the evening showcase at Submerged should be no problem for them and their fellow Hawaii acts Anuhea and the Green, Tavana and Pimpbot.
Besides sharing another event, a “sunset luau” Thursday at the flagship Whole Foods Market, with the Hawaii contingent, Velazquez got a special invite to do one of the “Second Stage Play” events held at various Austin hotels. Part of a select group of 20 chosen out of the thousands of acts playing at SXSW, she’ll be doing an early evening gig Saturday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel.