Thursday, March 13, 2014

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST DAY 1: Tragedy in the Streets of Austin

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I had just sat down to blog about what a fine evening of rock 'n' roll I'd had -- all the great music I heard, all the cool people I saw, all the friends I got to hang out with -- on the opening day of the South by Southwest Music Festival.

But then I got a Facebook message from my brother back in Santa Fe. He had news of a bizarre tragedy at SXSW and wanted to know if I was OK.

It seems that a car that was the subject of a police pursuit plowed into a crowd in front of The Mohawk near 9th Street and Red River. At this writing, two people have died, although five more were said to have been injured critically. Police say they transferred 23 people to the hospital.

I've been to The Mohawk many times, including once, a few years ago, with my daughter and son. And I'd considered going there tonight. Among those playing were X, The Black Angels and Les Claypool. A friend of a friend was telling us that he was going there to see X. I don't really know the guy, but I hope he's OK.

I've heard grumbling for years about how the festival has grown to big, how the streets of Austin can't handle the traffic, the crowds, the insanity.

I flashed back to Santa Fe -- the gang-related Fiesta shooting in the '90s, and how that murder on the Plaza dampened the Fiesta spirit for years. (They still burn Zozobra on Thursday instead of Friday because of that killing.) I'm afraid this could have a similar effect on SXSW.
The Hickoids get inducted

And, dammit, I did have a lot of fun Wednesday. I got to see the last few songs of Barrence Whitfield & The Savages' late afternoon gig at Antone's Records. My Santa Fe crony Tom Trusnovic invited me to join him and his band The Hickoids who were getting inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame during the Austin Music Awards. I got to see Lucinda Williams perform several songs at the awards show, bringing back fond memories of when I first saw her during my very first SXSW back in '95. I got to shake hands with the great Augie Meyers backstage at that show. And I got to see The Hickoids tear up honky tonk at The White Horse just an hour after their induction.

It was a great day -- not even to mention the time I got to spend with my daughter, her husband and my grandsons earlier.

But right now I'm just feeling shocked and sad.

UPDATE: 9 a.m. Find more details about the vehicular homicides at The Austin Statesman American.