It was a Wednesday afternoon in the heart of Texas summer. I was attending an industry soiree hosted by a music philanthropy organization my band is affiliated with. I walked into East Austin’s hipster Mecca, the steampunk-inspired Native Hostel, and was greeted by a familiar voice bellowing down the hallway. “Hey, what’s good Sasha?”
“Hey man!” I responded, locking eyes with Kevin, the handsome Outreach Director for the host organization.
“What’s new with you?” I replied with a smile as we came face-to-face.
“All the things. Don’t you run a blog or something? Outside of music.”
“Yeah man! Music Movies & Hoops.”
“Hoops like basketball?”
“Hell yeah, I love basketball.”
“Man, do you want to come to James Harden’s birthday party?”
Let’s pause here.
For a basketball junkie, an NBA diehard, and the founder of a digital media platform titled MUSIC MOVIES & HOOPS, this was a surreal question to be asked. Only in the rarest and most potent moments of life are you asked a question so heavenly, so syrupy, so custom-designed for your DNA that it feels as if it was conjured from the primordial soup of your fantasies and implores you to stop and give thanks for your fortune. This was such a question.
Reflecting on such exalted moments, I thought of three from my life.
1. In high school, my future girlfriend asked me to attend a play. She was a year older, beautiful, popular, the star of the musical. Her previous boyfriend was a year older than her! She was out of reach. But she asked me. It wasn’t a scam, there was no second shoe to drop. It was a dream.
2. Upon graduating college, I hiked the Long Trail—273 miles through Vermont spanning from the Massachusetts to the Canadian border. I left my phone at home. When I returned, I eagerly anticipated being showered with a month of texts and calls.
I had zero texts and only one voice message. However, the voice message was an auspicious one as it was from my college friend, and the award-winning pianist, Tom Fosnocht. Tom had taken a position as the musical director for a theater outside of Philly. He called to ask me to play bass in the pit for a living wage. Now keep in mind, I was a 22-year-old with a still drying music degree and no plan. Thank you, Tom.
3. My band got into a festival we really had no business playing. In the weeks before the festival, I missed a call from them. I was afraid to listen to the voicemail. I was sure we’d been caught. It was a mistake they booked us? We were getting bumped for a bigger band? Of course, it was too good to be true. But when I finally rallied the courage to listen, the message was to ask what type of beer, liquor, and food we wanted for our green room. I felt like I’d made it.
Returning to the tale at hand—Kevin continued, “My other job is with Live Nation and we’re putting together Harden’s birthday in Houston this year. I can get you on the list if you want.”
“Yeah man, I’d love to go,” I responded, doing everything I could not to act like I was 12 years old.
“Okay, sounds good man.” He confirmed and we exchanged numbers.
Kevin is a good person. I knew he wouldn’t outright f**k with me, but this is also the kind of flex you make when you’re at an industry event, hamming it up, and you have the cachet to do so. I didn’t expect anything to come of it.
But to my astonishment, weeks later he sent me this graphic and asked if I had a plus one.
This was real. I was going to James Harden’s birthday party.
I think friends would describe me as naively optimistic. When I got the graphic, I had in my mind that I was heading to a super mansion in the suburbs of Houston filled with such luminaries as John Wall, Christian Wood, maybe Kyrie Irving? Possibly Kevin Durant?! Heaven help me if Steve Nash was there! But more importantly, industry people. I was going to be in the room with the precise individuals that could catapult Music Movies & Hoops to the penthouse.
This party was not that.
To take a more succinct pause, here are three additional times I was tragically unrealistic about things:
- On my 29th birthday, my band signed with a booking agent. I thought it would change everything. It did not.
- For years in my 20s, I would go home for Christmas. I thought I was going to see all my high school friends, party, and have the best time ever. Turned out I did see my high school friends—all day, all night, every day—and returned to Austin exhausted.
- I mentioned Tom hiring me to play in the pit in my first sidebar. Tom fired me because I wasn’t “good enough.” Shit that stung.
What the party was, in reality, was one step away from a club and one step away from a Bar Mitzvah. People were smoking weed and cigarettes indoors, liquor was flowing, and yet it was ALL AGES. I couldn’t believe it. There were moms dressed to the nines, their kids home with dad, savoring their one night out. And there were 12-year-olds in jerseys. It was wild. Houston, you are one of a kind. I salute you.
To James and Kevin’s supreme credit, what the party lacked in celebrity sightings and exclusive industry hobnobbing, it delivered in an absolutely dynamite concert. The party featured performances by Maxo Kream, Gunna, Young Thug, and Travis Scott—TRAVIS SCOTT for heaven’s sake!
It was a great night. Now I wish I hadn’t been alone. I think with friends we would have embraced the entire situation and had a ball with it. Alone, I found myself killing 20-minutes in the smoking area and not smoking… But none the same, what a great adventure. Thank you, Kevin.
On August 28, 2021, I went to James Harden’s birthday party. I filmed the whole day. Below is the video I edited from my footage.