AUSTIN, Texas — Like most folks, Taylor Hanson has watched the events unfolding in Japan with a mixture of sadness and shock, not to mention an overwhelming urge to help out in some way.
Of course, unlike most folks, he also fronts a massively popular band: Hanson. And since he and his bandmate brothers were already down in Austin for South By Southwest, he quickly realized how he could help those still reeling in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the nation: by throwing together an impromptu benefit show, streaming live for 12 straight hours over at SXSW4Japan.org.
So, in less than a day, he and his brothers placed calls to their fellow musicians, found a studio compound outside downtown Austin, and got to work. And on Saturday, MTV News showed up to capture some of Hanson's efforts first hand.
"We came down to this festival hearing about the issues in Japan, and, honestly, kind of assumed there was going to be more of a coordinated push," Taylor Hanson told us. "You know, with South by, everybody's here to promote their thing, and they're kind of in a bubble, and I think there just hasn't been ... from South by Southwest, from the big guys, kind of [a message of] 'Hey, this is important, do something.'"
And so, much like everything Hanson does, the brothers took it upon themselves to spearhead the SXSW 4 Japan benefit, a live Web broadcast featuring performances and messages from the likes of Michael Stipe, John Hermann of Widespread Panic, the Court Yard Hounds. And, of course, Hanson themselves.
"We kind of like to get our hands dirty ... And we said, 'You know what? Let's just start doing something,' and the more we talked about it, we said 'This needs to be something that everybody's doing,'" Taylor said. "South By Southwest needs to say to the world that the music business is behind the effort to bring relief and bring aid to those that are struggling in Japan right now."
Fans can donate to the Red Cross' disaster relief efforts through the SXSW 4 Japan site, or by texting "Redcross" to 90999. It's just the first step in Japan's ongoing recovery, but Hanson hope that their effort won't be the last of its kind. Because, really, in situations like this, musicians possess more power than they could possibly imagine.
"Part of what's great about this is that music does inspire people to do stuff," Taylor said.
The SXSW 4 Japan livestream is live at SXSW4Japan.org . Fans can spread word via Twitter, using the hashtag #sxsw4japan.