Tuesday afternoon, SXSW staff began posting testimonials to their late friend and colleague, Brent Grulke, who had been SXSW Music's Creative Director from 1994 until he died after suffering a heart attack Monday morning in Austin.
In our time working for the Austin Chronicle off and on (mostly on) between 1994 and 2007, Rocks Off grew to know, like and respect Grulke, as did our former Chronicle colleague and now Dallas Observer Music Editor Audra Schroeder, who wrote a nice little tribute to Grulke Tuesday.
As many deaths do, Grulke's came completely out of nowhere, and many people still seem completely stunned. Outside his immediate survivors (he leaves a wife, son and two brothers), the people grieving hardest for Grulke, who was 52, are the people he worked with. He worked closely with all of them, it seems like, and their tributes poured into SXSW's Web site by the paragraph Tuesday.
Roland Swenson, SXSW Managing Director: It was Brent who put the music festival in overdrive. His relationships brought in so many of the artists that went on to greater success. And it was Brent who recruited the music staff that carried the work even farther than we dared hope.
Mike Shea, SXSW Executive Director: Brent Grulke was supposed to be the last man standing. The smiling guy with a glass in his hand and a story spilling from his lips.
Scott Wilcox, SXSW Director of Technology: Brent celebrated the music multiverse by bringing so many bands onto so many stages to play so many songs -- always bigger, always better, never enough, always more. We are so sad to not have more of you, Brent.
Christian Mella, SXSW Staff: As a member of SXSW Senior Management, he was down to earth, approachable, respectful, kind and passionate about music and all things SXSW. Sometimes people with this much history in a worldwide popular event, holding the position that they do, are not like I just explained.
But Brent was different. He was as unique and amazing as all the eclectic and life-changing bands he brought in for SXSW.
Paul Cashmere, Noise11.com (Australia): I can appreciate how small this planet is when half a planet away the people who had the privilege of meeting Brent united in sadness. Please pass on to Kristen how saddened and shocked his friends in Australia are today but in the time we got to spend with him down under how he impacted on us all.
David Rose, SXSW Staff: One night during my first year at SXSW, in 2000, I burst in to tears in front of Brent after a confrontation with a pissed-off band manager where I had to get a security guard, the police and finally, Brent and Roland involved. Brent calmly and humorously reassured me that I'd done exactly the right thing and that he was proud of me.
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R.U. Steinberg, Austin Chronicle: In the summer of 1986, the Chronicle hosted a "Sweet Jane" contest at Liberty Lunch. At the time, I had played music with Brent some -- nothing serious. Then, he came up with the idea that the two of us should play the show. I figured a big cane would yank me offstage, but what the heck.
Without hesitation and much to my surprise, he wanted to name our band after me, because he said something to effect, "Well Richard, deep down, everyone is a Steinberg after all." We opened the show, I was too chicken to sing, but like a true Steinberg, Brent stepped up to the plate.
See more on SXSW's Brent Grulke tribute page.