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The place to press the flesh is the Four Seasons bar, and the best spot in the house is at Jeff Rabhan's table. At least if free drinks are your idea of a good time—and if they aren't, you're in the wrong business.

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST: DAY ONE

It Sure Beats Working
You can always count on HITS employees to obey the rules—not letting a guy cut in the registration line at the Austin Convention Center, for instance, even if that guy is a fellow employee. But when push comes to shove, they can get the weasels to bust out the expense account-backed American Express cards for meals and drinks.

Austin, TX, is the host city for South By Southwest, the annual record biz Spring Break, which attracts 1,000 bands and eight times as many weasels. Ground zero isn't the convention center or any one of the kazillion clubs, with bands on the hour from eight to one. The place to press the flesh is the Four Seasons bar, and the best spot in the house is at Jeff Rabhan's table. At least if free drinks are your idea of a good time—and if they aren't, you're in the wrong business.

After flying in with a plane full of weasels, it's off to the hotel full of weasels and then to the convention center, also full of weasels. (Are there really this many people in the record business willing to shell out a couple hundred for a badge, a couple hundred for a hotel and another hundred for a plane ticket? Does Ivana sleep in NSYNC jammies?) But the real weasels await at the Four Seasons, where fellow HITS inmates Rodel Delfin, Simon Glickman, Marc Pollack and Rabhan exchange greetings with anybody packing corporate plastic.

Plans are made to see unsigned Virginia hard rockers Sunnshine and reservations are set for 15 at the restaurant downstairs, and of course, it's still five chairs too few. The bar service is great and the food takes nearly two hours—meaning we have to scarf and run five blocks to see the band that Rabhan has been hyping to the assorted lawyers, managers and big time A&R guys who paid for our food and liquor.

Since the panels haven't started and attendees are still straggling in, the lineup of bands is mostly limited to Austin locals. This early in the game nobody has any hot leads or any bands that they really want to see.

So I see Sunnshine, watch Pollack beat Rodel at pool and head to Emo's, where the movers and shakers of the indie rock world—as if there are any—have assembled. See my pals from Sub Pop, Chris Jacobs and Steve Manning, plus Heidi Anne-Noel of Girlie Action PR, and a couple of damn fine rock bands—Dressy Bessy, who use two drummers to mix Sonic Youth and Fugazi, and Essex Green, who sound an awful lot like the Kinks. Oh yeah, as long as the town doesn't run out of Shiner Bock or other people willing to pay for it, the next couple of days look to be quite good.

Thursday means Ray Davies of The Kinks keynote address and panels on digital music and Greg Kot's interview with David Byrne.

Pass the Tylenol.

HITS LIST: AMPERSANDS
Dynamic duos (12/3a)
TAYLOR'S TREMENDOUS YEAR
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
THEY CALL THE WINDFALL MARIAH (HOLIDAY EDITION)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
SONG REVENUE:
BOWS OF HOLLY
Adele is money. (12/3a)
UTA MUSIC EXPANDS IN NASHVILLE
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
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