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Life & Arts

After Biggest SXSW Ever, City Official Suggests We "Dial It Back"

thank you go home.JPG
Photo by Nathan Bernier
A sign outside the bar Shangri-La on E. 6th St. yesterday thanked SXSW attendees for visiting and urged them to leave.

The epic ten-day party that crashed down on Austin last week has grown to the point where it needs to be scaled back, according to City of Austin Music Programs Manager, Don Pitts.  "We need to curtail it, and I think dial it back some," Pitts said in a phone interview with KUT News.

"Some tougher standards should take place, and a lot of the events that we saw, the promoters or event producers were pretty inexperienced in handling those sizes of crowds," Pitts told KUT News.

Pitts says the city should not prioritize officially sanctioned South by Southwest (SXSW) events over unofficial events put on by independent promoters.  Even at official SXSW shows, there were issues with crowd control.  People denied entrance to a free show by The Strokes at Auditorium Shores rushed the gates on Thursday. On Saturday, another rowdy group tore down a fence at a Death From Above 1979 concert at Beauty Bar.  

"We should look at it totally from the health and safety aspect, and not if it's free or not free or sanctioned or non-sanctioned. That's our responsibility," Pitts said.

SXSW managing director Roland Swenson told KXAN News that he believes the free events are at least partly responsible for the large growth in crowds.

"One of the things about SXSW that people love is all the parties and free stuff. I think you reach a point, how much is too much, and I think we're there," said Swenson. 

Don Pitts, the city official, says SXSW has become a Spring Break destination where vacationing college kids come to party for cheap and sleep wherever they can.

"We had a complaint from the state cemetery from people sleeping in the state cemetery and bathing in the fountains," Pitts said.

"I think more conversations will be happening later on this week," on how better to orchestrate the annual event, he said.

On a somewhat related tangent, NPR ran a story this morning asking if it was still worth it for bands to make the trip down to Austin for SXSW. They found in many cases, the answer was no.

Nick Stetz, who was at SXSW playing drums with Canadian Leeroy Stagger, has been going to the conference for five years. "It seems like every year it's, like, harder and harder," Stetz laments. "You know, there's more hoops to jump through. It seems weird that, like, the bigger bands get more than one showcase."

What's your solution for making SXSW more tolerable?

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