SXSW's Brent Grulke Dies From a Heart Attack

Grulke was major force behind largest music festival in Texas

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Since 1987, the Austin music scene's biggest event of the year has been the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). Brent Grulke, one of the creative energies behind it, has passed away.

Grulke died at age 51 from a heart attack following oral surgery on Monday, reported the Austin Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in the capital of Texas.

Grulke worked for SXSW, which is held during spring break at venues throughout Austin, Texas. He became the creative director in 1994. As creative director, Grulke was responsible for heading up the bookings of the musicians and groups that performed at SXSW.

He was survived by his wife Kristen and a six-year-old son.

“A lot of Brent’s personality was in SXSW,” SXSW director and co-founder Roland Swenson said Monday, as reported by Peter Mongillo in the Austin American-Statesman.

“He was adventurous and knowledgeable and excited about creative people and endeavors," Swenson said. "He didn’t like the usual and mundane. He was open-minded enough to know that his taste wasn’t always the most important thing, so he was open to new things.”

Grulke was also a music journalist, beginning his writing career at the Daily Texan student newspaper at the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1983.

Grulke then went on to write about the Austin music community as a music editor at the Chronicle while working as a sound engineer at music venues throughout the city.

He was a sound engineer or tour manager for a range of musical acts, including the Wild Seeds, Doctors' Mob, the Killer Bees, the True Believers, Winter Hours, Bad Mutha Goose and the Prime Movers.

Although he lived and worked briefly in New York City and Los Angeles, Austin was where his heart remained.

"He was very much 'of the people' despite his role as creative director," said Jeff Salzgeber, a friend and an Austin public relations consultant who recently shared drinks with Grulke at the Dog & Duck Pub in Austin. "He didn't put himself on a pedestal."

Salzgeber recalled that Grulke had been talking about how short and fragile life is and how important it is to live every moment fully.

"Brent was an amazing friend and will be terribly missed," Salzgeber said. "Austin truly lost one of its biggest music supporters and promoters, but also one of its most generous souls."

The SXSW festival, which began with just 700 registrants in 1987, has grown to over 16,000 registrants last year. The festival has also expanded to include a film festival and technology conference.

Grulke "couldn't live without his records," wrote Michael Corcoran, a former roommate and a friend of Grulke's, in a remembrance on his blog. "His personality helped make SXSW a friendly type of industry juggernaut."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 13, 2012
Last Updated:
August 20, 2012