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International Acts Flock to Texas' South By Southwest Music Festival

The official motto of Austin, Texas, is "Live Music Capital of the World." It is certainly true for 10 days in mid-March each year, when the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive arts festivals attract thousands of visitors to the capital of Texas.

Bob Schneider's song, "Cap'n Kirk", was named Song of the Year at the 2005 Austin Music Awards, the event kicking off the 2005 edition of the South By Southwest Music Conference

When South By Southwest first took place in 1977, only 700 music industry professionals attended the conference. This year, more than 8,000 registered for the 19th "South By." The 2005 event featured more than 1,300 artists performing concert sets over four days at 58 venues scattered across town, and three days of seminars and panels.

The artists showcasing performed all types of popular music from, pop and hip-hop, to country, rock, bluegrass and blues.

Ages ranged from the 10 and 12-year-old members of the Seattle band "Smoosh," heard performing "Massive Curve," to 91-year-old Pinetop Perkins, who sat in with former Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin.

But the variety at South By Southwest 2005 was shown in more than just the musician's ages. Of the 1,350 acts, 294 came from outside the United States. That's up 30 percent from 2004. Most hailed from the United Kingdom, but 70 represented Canada, 20 came from Japan, and nine came from Sweden. One band, the group 127, tried to make it to Texas from Iran, but was forced to cancel because of travel problems.

Why do so many international acts attend, despite the hurdles of obtaining a visa in the post-9/11 world? The answer is economics. The weak dollar means across the board expenses, including travel and lodging, are much less than they were even a year ago.

Patricia Vonne didn't travel as far as those bands. Her showcase at the Continental Club was just a short walk from her Austin apartment and means a lot for her career.

"It's a chance to be seen by people coming from all over the world. Music is a universal language, and I want to just spread it out to whoever wants to hear it," she said. "We've been playing South By Southwest since 1999. It's a chance to meet and greet the people that you normally couldn't solicit yourself as an artist. You know, just figure out who to meet who can help you in your process of being an artist."

Despite the hundreds of bands playing each evening, one of the most memorable events of South By Southwest involved someone who didn't play a single note. Brian Wilson, ex-Beach Boys leader, made a rare public appearance to talk, and take questions about the completion of his long-abandoned album, Smile.