Brent Grulke, SXSW Music Creative Director, Dies of Heart Attack

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The book that sent Brent Grulke to Austin.
Grulke was also a friendly acquaintance of Rocks Off's from our own time at the Austin Chronicle. We know he would probably chuckle at being the subject of anyone's "Hot Seat."

The SXSW and Chronicle offices were next door, so we'd see him around from time to time and usually talked about the Astros -- this was when they were actually good, and there was lots of playoff talk.

When we were the paper's music-news columnist and SXSW was kicking into high gear around the beginning of January, we would walk across the volleyball court between the two buildings and ask Grulke to size up the coming festival.

The last time we really talked to Grulke in that job, it was our last year (2007) and SXSW had been withholding its list of performers -- which numbered some 1,300 artists -- longer than usual, longer than some in the media (blogs, mostly) really wanted, so many began publishing their own lists, including a crazy rumor reported by MTV that the surviving members of Nirvana would reunite with Texan Ben Kweller assuming the role of Kurt Cobain.

Grulke argued that withholding the names made sense because SXSW's bigger size meant it took more time to get the logistics in order, then reminded us that the event was created and designed for those who work within the music industry, not people just buying wristbands or waiting to see who was playing for free during the festival. But he was exceedingly gracious about it.

"God bless 'em, [music fans] know that traditionally they've been able to go to SXSW shows, and they're not interested in whether it's an industry event or not," Grulke said. "Particularly the most hardcore, they just want to know who's playing so they can decide whether or not it makes sense for them to even try to come."

Grulke is survived by his wife Kristen and son Graham. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Brent was the best guy ever and, in his role at SXSW, always non-partisan in his bookings.  He worked diligently to produce the best that the festival could offer and to be as inclusive as possible.  We hung out a bit in the early days (mid-80's) and later when he was SXSW Creative Director - same humble person.  His wife Kristen is a real jewel, sending prayers her way.

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