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It’s a reminder that the line between chaos and order, civility and savagery, life and death is thinner and more porous than we’d like to believe, and periodically the other side will intrude to mar our best moments.
—--Jeff Leven

DAY TWO DISPATCH FROM SXSW

HITS Correspondent Jeff Leven Carries on with the Musical Mecca After Tragedy Strikes Austin

Life is a game of inches. About three hours before the horrific car crash I was more or less exactly in that spot coming in and out of the Mohawk. Had I not happened to have had bands to see in other corners of downtown, there’s a chance I could have seen, or worse yet, been a part of the accident.


Instead I discovered it when Daniel Glass showed me the headline on his phone as we sat in the serenity of Central Presbyterian watching HOLYCHILD, and then learned more on Twitter as the night went on.

While the likely intoxication of the driver and the array of the crowds will possibly lead some to discuss SXSW security as a whole, I tend to see this less as an SXSW thing and more as a human one. Years ago a driver went into the Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica, and obviously impaired driving kills probably tens of thousands across the country annually.


If anything, it’s a reminder that the line between chaos and order, civility and savagery, life and death is thinner and more porous than we’d like to believe, and periodically the other side will intrude to mar our best moments.


SXSW is inevitably going to be a bit sad from here, and rightfully thoughts and condolences should go to the families and friends of those killed and those hurt. But the festival continues, and with the very fresh reminder that life is short, thousands here will respectfully carry on.

 

The Mohawk was a particular hotspot last night. Strong, wild early sets from Cerebral Ballzy and together PANGEA were followed by a dense, powerful performance by +++ (crosses), featuring the mighty Dino Campanella (Dredg) on drums. Sandwiched in there also was Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang, as the Primus man brought his harrumphing, gorgeous weirdness to covers of Alice in Chains’ “Man In the Box,” and his own “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver.” Call it the middle-aged, weird America, I guess.


Down the street at Stubb’s, Perfect Pussy was loud, spastic and fast, showing their promise if not quite dominating the big space. Other youthquake moments were supplied by The Lovely Bad Things, who sizzled at the Javelina, and The Silent Comedy, who played an incredible array of new songs at Rusty’s

 

Highlights from earlier in the day included a focused and intense Lucius set at the Paste party, a well-received acoustic virtual “best of” by The Magic Numbers at the Hilton (a weird but not entirely uncomfortable venue), and a warm, engaging HOLYCHILD set at the C3 party.


Cathedrals kicked off the day at the Pledge Music/Danger Village party with a DJ set, as San Fermin and a well-curated array of acts took over outside. Across the rest of the day, I slotted in meetings, ate barbecue, caught up casually with Brendan Benson, bumped into people at the Convention Center and caught up with a great friend from law school.


While I whiffed on seeing Johnny Winter, there were other great musical and social surprises, and, on balance, it was a great day like any other at SXSW, until it wasn’t. But after a moment, our goal can’t help but be to make it the next day a great one again…

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