The End of SXSW As We Know It
For the last week, I’ve been running around like a manic at the South By Southwest Festival. I’ve seen interviews with bands, watched movies, and declined an inordinate number of chances to tweet about brands in exchange for some sort of terrible swag.
That fun festival came to a halt last night when a man driving a stolen car fleeing a DWI stop killed two people outside the Mohawk nightclub last night at 12:31, and injured 23 others.
When the incident happened, I was at the NPR showcase at Stubb’s, very close to the scene of the accident. I was casually reading Twitter while waiting for Damon Albarn to start. I had earlier been talking on Twitter to a friend in Latvia about the livestreamed show, when I saw a Tweet from another friend expressing concern about what had happened. I then started reading Twitter trying to figure out what was really going on. My husband Paul Sicard and I were passing our phones back and fourth as the show started, trying to figure out how bad this incident was. It was very very very bad. Standing next to the NPR livestream and sound gear for the show, I could see a helicopter hovering far above the street.
Though I had stood in line for half an hour to get into the club, I was so upset that we left the show before it was over. It’s no fun to wallow in melancholy music when real tragedy is going on.
When I walked out, Red River was closed off, blocked to pedestrians. (I’m selfishly glad my bike was parked just outside the police tape.)
Last night felt like the end of an era for SXSW, partly because Margaret Moser (whom I adore) will no longer be running the Austin Music Awards, but mostly because of the people who were killed by someone avoiding a DWI traffic stop.
A few years ago, I had been standing outside of Stubb’s, about to walk into the venue, when a piece of equipment fell on several concertgoers, injuring them. That night the show went on, at least an hour late with the band OMD visibly shaken during their brief set.
Today things feel changed, and not in a good way. I was very happy to see my two houseguests last night, including one who had been at the Mohawk at the time of the incident. I was very relieved to find out that my friends from Latvia were safe and accounted for.
I’ve been to a lot of music festivals over the years, and I’ve seen a lot of things that I thought might injure people if things went just a little bit differently. This I wasn’t expecting.
In the future, we will find out details of why and how Rashad Charjuan Owens, 22, of Killeen made the decisions that killed two and seriously injured multiple people.
Now people I know on social media are talking about donating blood and how awful this is.
Maybe it’s time for me to go donate some blood as well. There’s nothing else I can do.
I feel powerless and sad.