SXSW 14Now underway, South by Southwest is as unruly and impossible as ever, with some 2,200 bands scheduled to perform through the early hours of Sunday. The unexpected is likely to happen -- and not always in a good way, as I found out last year after an afternoon meeting with Damon Albarn.

We'd had a great chat. Charming and thoughtful, Albarn discussed his childhood, Blur, Gorillaz, West African music, his relationship with Paul McCartney and the members of the Clash, and, most of all, his then-new "Everyday Robots," his first solo album after some 25 years in the music business. As duty required, I scribbled furiously to capture his comments in my black Moleskine notebook.

That evening, I set out to hear a few bands and wasn't particularly engaged by any of them. As I was walking along Sixth Street, downtown's main drag for music, I noticed a huge crowd gathered outside a venue where Tyler, The Creator was scheduled to perform. Since I had a press badge, I decided to tuck my notebook under my arm and nudge through the crowd to catch a bit of his set. As I made my way to the front, having suffered shoves and a few swear words, I saw a handwritten sign that announced the show had been cancelled. I had been thinking the venue would provide sanctuary, but now I had to push myself through the mob again in order to move on. They weren't pleased.

Shaking free, I walked toward my hotel to sit and study the handwritten schedule I had in my notebook. Instead, I discovered that my notebook was gone. Which meant my Albarn notes were gone too.

I was stunned. I hurried back into the surly crowd on Sixth Street to see if I'd dropped it a few minutes earlier, but found nothing. Then I retraced my steps to the clubs I'd been to prior to my Tyler, the Creator detour: The notebook wasn't on the sticky floors or in the managers' offices. I went to the reception desk at various hotels to ask if it had been turned in. No. I checked my email -- I list it in the front of each notebook -- but wasn't contacted.

At 4 a.m., the streets now quiet, I returned to Sixth to see if it lay at the curb with the piles of refuse. No. Then back to the clubs at noon. Still nothing.

It was really impossible to write the story I intended about Albarn: I had transcribed only a few of his sentences into a Word document before the notebook was lost. I couldn't abandon the story. To my mind, SXSW 2014 belonged to Damon Albarn. Throughout the festival, he performed often, doing gorgeous acoustic sets with his band augmented by strings as well as full-blown rock shows, one of which featured Gorillaz songs with guests Snoop Dogg and De La Soul, among others.

When it came time to write the story, I had to proceed without the vast majority of Albarn's remarks, most of which I could not recall verbatim. I had their essence, but he had an appealing way with language that enriched his tales and gave a sense of his intelligence and perspective. Now less a profile and more a review of "Everyday Robots," my story ran in The Wall Street Journal. I hoped only I knew it was somewhat less than it could've been. (Click here to see the Albarn story.)

For months afterwards, I thought I might get an email from someone who found the notebook. I could envision it in the places I thought it might have fallen. But no. It was gone. It was the first notebook I'd ever lost in the more than 30 years since I began writing for the Journal.

This year, my notebook is in my shoulder bag, which will remain strapped to my shoulder whenever I'm not in my hotel room. When it comes to the unexpected at SXSW, I prefer it come in the form of new music.