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I’m not going to lie. When Adam asked me to write this issue’s Editor’s Note, I balked. I really balked. Not because I didn’t want the extra work, mind you (although, cards on the table, that might have been a little part of it). Rather, I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. Unfortunately, I lost the argument — despite what I considered to be several valid points — and here I am. Luckily, you’re stuck with me only for a couple of weeks, and then Adam will be back to his old gig.

The last time I was here, I was talking purses — a subject near and dear to my heart. I also mentioned that the next time you saw me in this space, I’d be writing about lip gloss. Well, the men reading this magazine will be relieved to know that the topic at hand today is, in fact, not lip gloss. (Mainly because I wrote about it in the UpFront section of our March 1 issue, along with blush, eye shadow and various other cosmetics, all in the coral color group, a popular hue this spring, in case you missed the story. But I digress.)

Instead, I’m here to tell you about five truly fascinating people: Caryn Carson, Amy Zimmer, David Base, Justin Forer and Tony Gambell. Some of you may know who these five people are (actually, all of you should know, but I’ll let it slide if a few of you don’t). These are our five Road Warrior finalists, whom you spent four weeks voting for to decide who would be named king or queen of the skies. For the big reveal, click here.

Since this year’s theme for the competition was music, we asked entrants to choose an album by their favorite band and then write an adventure essay weaving all the album’s song titles, the band’s name and the album title into the story. And, yes, the essay had to actually make sense. And that’s where things got tricky. (We made sure our challenge was solvable by conducting a few practice runs here in the office.) Thousands of you stepped up to the plate and entered. After reading through all the entries, we narrowed them down to our top five, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Part of the Road Warrior prize, of course, includes the infamous photo shoot, and when J.R. Arebalo, our design director, came up with the brilliant idea of photographing the finalists as musicians from the bands they based their essays on, the obvious location for the shoot was Austin, Texas, which bills itself as the Live Music Capital of the World. Trust me, this is no lie. I’ve seen countless shows around Austin — at venues like Stubb’s (Andrew Bird, the Decemberists), Mohawk (the Hold Steady), Cedar Street Courtyard (Peter Bjorn and John, Passion Pit ), the Mean-Eyed Cat (Dan Auerbach) — and the city lives up to its claim. After scouting for the perfect backdrop for the shoot, J.R. selected two of the city’s most famous venues: the Continental Club and Maggie Mae’s. The bands and artists our Road Warriors represented were Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (Caryn), Pavement (Amy), the Talking Heads’ David Byrne (David), the Roots (Justin) and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (Tony).

I don’t know whether it was the venues, the city itself, the clothes, the makeup, the music or an aggregation of it all, but the Road Warrior transformations were incredible. Somewhere deep inside each of them, a rock star really existed. When Caryn stepped out in a fuchsia jacket and leather leggings and grabbed the mike, she became Steven Tyler. The quote of the day came when the photographer told David Base to smile: “David Byrne never smiles,” Base said.

After the two-day shoot (I’m glad to report there was no diva-like behavior and, contrary to what the picture on page 34 may suggest, no hotel rooms were trashed), Caryn, Amy, David, Justin and Tony all had to return to reality and head back to their respective lives. But what about those alter egos we helped them find? Well, we hope they let them out to rock every once in a while! Oh, and if you happen to be flying to Austin right now for the world-famous South by Southwest music festival , visit www.americanwaymag.com/SXSW and check out our guide to 10 great bands to see while you’re there. If you need me, I’ll be sitting on the curb across the street from the Red Eyed Fly, eating a slice of pizza.

To view the five winning Road Warrior entries in full, visit americanwaymag.com/roadwarrior.

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Anna Fialho
Associate Editor