I had just sat down to blog about what a fun evening of rock ’n’ roll I’d had on the opening day of the South by Southwest music festival on March 12 — all the great music I heard, all the cool people I saw, and all the friends I got to hang out with — when I got a Facebook message from my brother 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 and Red River Streets. At that point, two people had died and five more were critically injured. By Monday morning, one of those five had died from injuries she’d sustained in the incident. A couple of dozen people injured by that driver were transported to hospitals that night.
I’ve heard grumbling for years about how the festival has grown too big and how the streets of Austin can’t handle the traffic, the crowds, and the insanity. You can’t blame the festival organizers for the alleged actions of the defendant, Rashad Owens, an aspiring rapper and music producer, who reportedly had a gig on the festival’s last night. According to police he was fleeing from a DWI checkpoint, may have been intoxicated, and had outstanding arrest warrants. But this is a music column, not an op-ed piece, and I did hear lots of great music at the festival and at the unofficial events that surrounded SXSW.
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