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We release a single and a video and must tour America to let people know about them. I am 34 and have been doing this for 15 years.

Our target is the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, a.k.a. “SXSW.” At SXSW, life will seem easy. It will be warm, but not hot. The Whole Foods in downtown Austin will seem more abundant than Whole Foodses elsewhere. Record deals will be made, booking agents secured, and, even if we are not the band getting a record deal or securing a booking agent (and what but past experience and common sense says that we will not be?), the proximity and sheer volume of entertainment-business transactions will comfort us as we sleep in our rented minivan beneath the waxing Texas moon like characters in a Cormac McCarthy novel—-if Cormac McCarthy had skinny jeans.

But before going to Austin, we must go to Pittsburgh. On the way to this city where three rivers converge, we hear that seven people have been shot at the University of Pittsburgh’s psychiatric clinic. Rain pummels the car like the relentless forces of popular culture that prevented Bruce Springsteen’s 1992 record Lucky Town from making as much of a mark as Nirvana’s 1991 record Nevermind. But if Springsteen’s worried about this relatively forgotten album’s relative failure, he should take heart—-the Sirius XM satellite service provided free by our rental-car agency offers E Street Radio, a channel devoted to The Boss’s recorded works. Though I must listen quietly as my bandmates are sleeping, I hear “Fire” before Drummer J. awakens and, with little warning, pose this penetrating query: “Ezra Klein says that Lawrence Lessig says that corporate money in partisan politics isn’t as damaging as partisan politics itself. Do you agree?” We do not resolve this question before arriving at the venue in Pittsburgh, which is called Howler’s Coyote Café.

Tonight is our lucky night: Though Philadelphia’s ban on smoking in bars has not yet made the long trip west across the Appalachians to Steel City, the punishing bluish-gray atmosphere has not prevented Howler’s from installing a new sound system. “You can control the monitor mix with your iPod,” gushes the soundman, who produces said device to demonstrate. The opening band breaks in the virgin P.A., playing “Hipster Girl”—-what must be their signature song (“She wore black tights/American Apparel never looked so nice”)—-to a thin crowd of not-easily-categorizable youth (Are they punks? B-Boys? Juggalos?) who know every word. When they leave the stage, we utilize the no-longer-virgin sound system to play for nine people and make $50.