SXSW Downplaying Several Ugly Incidents

This isn’t the type of hangover that SXSW organizers had in mind.  But this time around, more people brought more problems, including fights and injuries.

In fact, a number of ugly incidents are becoming major stories, even more so than the music itself.

SXSW organizers are pointing to injuries that were ultimately minor, though this is now a serious post-game discussion.  And the real question is whether SXSW has hit a tipping point.  Because it seems that these incidents were not isolated, but rather symptoms of a saturated, record-setting crowd, along with lubricants like free admissions and free beer.  And a number of incidents support this theory:

(1) Friday: Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel jumps into the crowd and starts throwing punches at two women.  Apparently someone spit beer and threw some ice on stage.

(2) Same night: Camera equipment comes loose and falls onto crowd members at the OMD show at Stubbs, injuring four.  Paramedics and stretchers were on the scene.  In an interview with the local Austin NBC station, SXSW managing director Roland Swensen blamed unauthorized equipment.  “If it’s crowded it can be dangerous, but we didn’t get a chance to say no,” Swensen stated.

(3) Thursday: At a free Strokes concert at Auditorium Shores, security spent the night wrestling with fence-climbing fans.  Several were injured, and thousands were clamoring to get inside.

Just hours after the final shows, SXSW organizers are already taking steps to limit freebie events and beer next year.  “There are so many free events out there, that I think it’s starting to attract an element of people that are troublemakers,” Swensen continued.  “I think you reach of point of how much is too much.  I think we’re there.”