Somebody Please Shut SXSW Down…

If it can’t be done safely, should it be done at all?


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When one person overdosed at Electric Daisy Carnival, the City of Los Angeles shut the entire festival down, for good, and brought criminal charges against the organizers.   Now, with 2 dead, 5 critically injured and potentially dying, and 18 suffering from a range of injuries, SXSW organizers are adamantly pushing forward to continue the festival as scheduled.  “Despite all of our preparations for dealing with a major incident during SXSW, nothing could really prepare us for how this feels,” SXSW organizers offered in a statement to Digital Music News early this morning.

“As much as we would like to just go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today.  All of the SXSW staff and volunteers reported for their regular duties this morning and will continue working today on the event.”


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This isn’t the first tragedy at SXSW, though it is the most serious.  Last year, there was a shooting at SXSW, incidentally on the exact same block (Red River)  as Wednesday evening’s mass-manslaughter.  The year before that, violent clashes involving Austin police and near-riotous fans raised serious safety concerns.  Other altercations peppered the event, with police officers repeatedly forced to restrain belligerent attendees (often on horseback). 

All of which raises the question of just how vulnerable SXSW is to a similar tragedy, in 2014 or in the future, especially without massive and immediate changes.

According to an estimate published in 2012, SXSW rakes in nearly $200 million a year in revenues for the City of Austin.

38 Responses

  1. Jaded Industry Dude

    While we’re at it, let’s close down every concert venue ever, and festival, because they too could somehow be affected by drunk driving. Actually, now that I think about it, let’s outlaw cars too! Concerts, festivals, and cars, across all of America and the world.

    I have an even better idea, let’s make all of everything illegal and shut everything down. But first, please shut down this f*cking dumb website.

    • The Nipple King

      Should really just shut down the whole freakin’ internet

    • Inconvenient Question

      Why a high speed chase again?

      No chase, no tragedy.

      • Chris Canada

        Agree that cop chases are high risk and should be stopped – We have radio, satellite, cams, etc etc ?? Why then cowboy style chases is beyond me. , Up here its become a real issue now..

    • lroosemusic

      Hi Mr. Dude,

      I think the article was written to draw a parallel to how EDC was shut down vs. other events.

      You’re right – accidents will always happen a tragedy like this is no reason to ban an event due to something unforeseen/unavoidable.

    • A Nun Y Mouse

      Seriiously. How friggin’ stupid is this article…and this site.

  2. S King

    It’s been a disaster waiting to happen for at least the past 5 years

  3. Willis

    Shut it down because a drunk driver ran down people? You’re nuts. This kind of accident could have happened anywhere…and it does. Should the Venice Boardwalk be shut down or the Santa Monica marketplace? Both of those had the same thing happen. What should be looked at is the number of high-speed pursuits by police that end in innocent people getting hurt.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Maybe it’s time to seriously re-examine how SXSW is organized. There have been small riots, altercations with police, pepper spraying, etc. So let me ask you, do you think that the people affected by this driver would wholeheartedly agree with the whole ‘show must go on’ mentality here?

      There are so many things that may need to change here. Why are vehicles allow to drive through the grid that houses SXSW? After all, there is a much higher likelihood that these individuals will be drunk. Why not block off a far larger area, free of vehicles?

      Or, why do the Austin police think that high-speed chases make sense in a heavily-populated festival? Why is that the policy?

      And do we have assurance that this sort of thing — or, something equally tragic — won’t occur tomorrow? Not without substantive changes. Let’s see what this city truly prioritizes: public safety, or money.

      • Jaded Industry Dude

        Good point, let’s just blockade all of TX during SXSW. Can’t allow any bicycles, either, because they could potentially run over small children or plant life. Likewise, we should all just camp in Austin during SXSW! Then, and only then, will people be safe again from drunk drivers.

        There were literally 3,371 fatal and non-fatal car crashes in TX in 2013 ( – March, specifically, being the fourth safest month to drive out of a twelve month calendar year. There were 521 alcohol related fatalities in TX in 2013.

        The issue here isn’t a car, or alcohol, or cops, or SXSW. The issue here is one dumb f*cking idiot got behind the wheel of a car and did something that is unforgivable. How you’re able to say otherwise is beyond me.

      • jim

        You are right. SXSW should have at least shut down one day out of respect.

        It’s disgusting SXSW marched on like nothing happened.

      • Willis

        While I understand the tragedy behind this accident, it is just that – an accident. Had SXSW not been taking place at the time, there would have been other patrons on the street. Maybe we should ban pedestrian traffic altogether? This was an isolated incident. Regardless of drunken state (which is a personal choice) or otherwise, SXSW is not to blame and needs no changing. NYC sees thousands of pedestrians use the same streets as cars daily and there are no problems. This has nothing to do with SXSW and everything to do with a single incident that may or may not happen again. To suggest that SXSW needs to change to protect attendees from an unknown, unforeseen, possible incident is akin to bubble-wrapping your entire house to make sure your child remains safe.

        • Paul Resnikoff

          Willis, with all due respect, I’d encourage you to do more research in this regard. Pedestrian accidents and run-ins with vehicles is an ongoing problem in New York City. If you’ve ever tried to cross an intersection while multiple cabs are inching forward while mid-turn, and itching to floor it to make the next light, you’d understand why.

          But there’s a major difference here: pedestrians are generally not mingling in the middle of a blocked off 5th Avenue. I just wonder, to echo some of the sentiments here and outside of this comments section, if pursuing an individual in a high-speed chase while thousands of unsuspecting people walk around makes any sense. Why not just capture the plate and pursue in another way?

          I was one of several reporters talking to the Austin chief of police at 3:30 am after the accident. When the policy of high-speed chases came up, Chief Acevedo quickly shut it down, and declared that the only problem here was the criminal involved, not any high-speed policy or various procedures and approaches related to stopping suspected drunk drivers.

          That’s something to debate, however, it’s not being debated at all. The attitude, among the SXSW organizers, the Austin Police, and most people in this thread, is that nothing needs to change. Or, even worse, that nothing even needs to be examined at all.

          SXSW and the City of Austin were 100% correct? There’s nothing that could be looked at or improved? That’s not a healthy attitude, sorry, and it invites further tragedies and problems.

          Furthermore, I question whether this is truly an isolated accident. Did you know that EMS teams were preparing and drilling for this specific problem before the event started (ie, a drunk driver plowing into a large crowd)?

          Sorry to dismantle the entire premise of your argument.

          • grumpmusic

            Hardly an isolated incident? What are you suggesting – this was part of a larger conspiracy to hurt people? Walk down 6th street any Saturday and you will see the same crowds and police presence. To imply the police are to blame for this guy plowing into people is irresponsible. What if the guy hadn’t stolen the car or gotten drunk before driving? Can’t imagine the police would have any problem with him then. You want to blame the liquor company that made his booze? What about the car manufacturer for their deadly weapon?

          • GGG

            For what it’s worth, I think a lot of cities, NYC for sure, does have the do not chase rule in effect. Which is why those roving bands of dbags and assholes on illegal bikes and ATVs essentially have no problem being terrible human beings.

            You’d think it’d be a general urban rule…

          • Willis

            You haven’t “dismantled” anything. I have crossed the streets in NYC. I suggested the regulation of pursuits based upon location and population.

            The facts are the facts and no amount of conspiracy theory assumptions from you will change those facts.
            1. the police were in high-speed pursuit of a criminal in a heavily crowded pedestrian area. this is a problem.
            2. this kind of thing happens in other cities and was an isolated incident at SXSW
            3. changing SXSW isn’t going to change history
            4. people line the streets on Sunset for shows all the time. they also mingle on closed off streets at many events in many cities across the country.
            5. it was a tragedy that potentially could have been avoided

            I’m not sure what you expect to get out of studying things further. You may just want to accept that this kind of unfortunate thing happens.

  4. GGG

    Why shut it down? If they make any changes it should be to limit the amount of artists so playing a show there actually means something again.

  5. D Stew

    To shut it down would be a knee-jerk reaction, typical of many liberals, and totally uncalled for. You cannot possibly plan for idiocy and dangerous fools – life is full of them. Should we live in safe boxes and never emerge? Ban all public gatherings?

  6. Stu

    This is clickbait based on a tragedy. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  7. Seth Keller


    You and I have emailed and talked. I know you’re a good guy, an empathic guy and this post is well meaning, but your logic just doesn’t make sense. Should Malaysia shut down it’s airport because that plane went missing? Should Boston have cancelled the marathon this year because of last year’s bombing? Should the Dodgers have cancelled the season because of the fan beating two years ago? Should Lax be shut down because of the guy who killed the TSA agent last year?

    If your answer is yes, then shut down SX too.

    I disagree with you wholeheartedly on this one.

  8. Chuck

    I am not going to comment on if it should be shut down or not but I will say, If what happened at sxsw was happened at an EDM festival there would be an outrage and they would have to shutdown! Someone dehydrates at an EDM festival and people go nuts. 2 people get killed and 5 critically injured and its business as usual.

    • Anonymous

      EDM is modern day rock and roll, the authorities try to find any reason to stop enjoyment of it.

  9. Danwriter

    Don’t shut SXSW down because of the tragedy. Shut it down —or more precisely — ignore it, as one of a bulging portfolio of “music/media conferences” that accomplish little more than to act as a magnet for post-apocalypse music business scams and an excuse for mindless partying. (MIDEM may have run its course but at least the high cost of entry kept the riff-raff out.) SXSW has devolved into TED Talks with speedballs and vodka.

    • TD Walker

      Well put. This horrific tragedy aside, SXSW is typically a very fun event. However, as an entrepreneur, I am comfortable taking a pass since SXSW has very little to do with the Music Business.

    • sxsux

      Agree with this 100%. Cannot believe music companies still pay for their employees to go here.

    • Anonymous

      Quit your bitching. SXSW has always been a music/movie/technology festival.

  10. Marc Alan

    I have been informed that the driver is 21 years old, and stole the car that he drove earlier in the the day and drove to the area of the accident. He was not part of the festival and I have to say the festival itself is one of the best run of it’s type that I have been to. To close it down does way more harm than good. Honestly, closing it down would the worst possible outcome.

    • Jane

      Despite being on probation, Rashid (the driver) made the trip from Killeen to perform at one of the many “unofficial” showcases surrounding sxsw. This is Typical for young Texans without badges to do– thousands of twenty-something year olds flock to the city each spring in the hopes they will be made famous or have a story to tell. SXSW is a wealthy company who markets itself as the coolest thing in the world wherein no bad could ever happen. Like McDonalds or the Army, they sell their product by coming off like it is an American tradition, and not an entity whose success is made at the expense of its participants.


    We should grieve for those killed, and feel powerful compassion for the injured.

    That said, this piece is melodramatic malarkey. How about we shut down every city in the USA every time someone dies either via drunk driver or firearm…

    The official festival is now a tiny part of what happens in Austin this week, as the fringe festival, with many more venues than the official wristband scene, presents local, regional, and international musicians most of you have never heard of.

    EDM is one event, if large. SxSW, NotSxSW (Shaidri and I will play five NotSxSW showcases), and the myriad offshoots now cover this town right to its outskirts. Y’all who live by the publicity machine and the so-called “press” are only partially clued to what is going on here now, and has been for years.

    Drunk drivers are a problem. Start there. The man drove the wrong way against traffic and then drove through a traffic barricade intended to close the street to vehicle traffic , all of this in about three blocks.

    Yes, it is a tragedy, but not unlike what happens every single day in multiple cities all over the USA. The difference is the amount of media exposure attending SxSW, and the senseless dramatization of a tragedy, something the press seems to relish in its drive to capture eyeballs. That, in and of itself, is a tragedy unto itself.

  12. grumpmusic

    Me thinks someone has an ax to grind with SX that has nothing to do with this article. That’s the only reason I can imagine such a knee jerk reaction. Or maybe just pretending to be “subjective”. Either way, weak.

  13. charlie

    the perp did this intentionally, there are better means to control Traffic and Pedestrias alike during an event like this. of SXSW brings in over 200 million dollars, they can spend some of that to install temporary Cement barricades on the streets they want to close down around the festical site, and employ more law enforcement personnel around the site, that should deter any morons like this guy and the drunks

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Interesting that none of this is being discussed openly, partly because I think it demonstrates possible admission of negligence (and lawyers may be watching this situation closely). Hopefully we will see changes next year, though legal issues could prevent them.

  14. dave chappelle

    you’d think it was 9/11 all over again the way you guys talk about it

  15. Petunia

    This whole festival has become way too big too fast. I agree that there should have been some recognition of the dead and injured attending festival but big money always wins over empathy & decency. What happened to SXSW being a festival for new artists & innovative ideas to showcase instead it has become a juggernaut for the big label machine? Comparing what happens in a city on everyday basis has nothing to do with an organized music festival. The organizers need to rethink their game plan for future and perhaps have these large companies pay for more security to help with future safety concerns.

  16. The Ghost Of Jerry Garcia

    Hey Paul,

    I think Tyler The Creator’s stunt backed up your point.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I wasn’t there, though I do know that over-capacity and cramming can kill people.

      A third person was just pronounced dead as a result of the drunk driving incident.

  17. Versus

    This is silly. Why should the event have been shut down? That would been extremely wasteful. Should we shut down every city in the world every time a crime happens? Every public event with the risk of an accident or crime? That would be a world where….nothing ever happens. Except crime and accidents, that is.