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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Tragedy, art mingle at Austin festival

Thousands flocked to Austin over Spring Break to participate in the annual South by Southwest festival, but the festival drew attention for more than just its music and entertainment events.
Early Thursday morning, an alleged drunk driver hit a crowd and killed two people and injured 23 outside The Mohawk on Red River Street. The suspect was charged with capital murder.
Meagan Marwitz, freshman anthropology major, was waiting for a show to play at The Mohawk two hours before the incident. She said it was crazy knowing she was in the same spot where the incident eventually took place.
Marwitz, who has attended SXSW for the last three years and noticed an increase in attendees this year, said she was impressed with the SXSW response to the incident.
“I honestly think the festival handled it really well,” Marwitz said. “SXSW has created an organization where people can donate, online or at venues, to families of those affected. I think it was a good idea to keep the shows going, because if they would have cancelled shows, there would be more people out on the streets and it could be a safety hazard. SXSW has also created a fund to prepare for anything else that may occur in the future.”
The festival consists of three sectors – interactive, film and music. Each sector features celebrities, films and bands to promote for the festival audience. Kayla Abney, freshman general engineering major, said she spent a lot of time attending events that were part of the interactive sector of SXSW.
“The interactive portion felt really laid back to me,” Abney said. “I went to the SXSubway Square and they had set up a parking lot into a lounge with amazing chairs and plenty of stations to charge your phone. There was tons of free food, drinks and freebies. I didn’t walk a single block where I wasn’t handed free stuff.”
Abney said the interactive portion was a lot less crowded than the majority of music events.
“For the most part, the interactive portion was cheaper and a lot easier to participate in,” Abney said. “All you had to do was RSVP online and most of the events were free. The only struggle was that some events were 21 and over and weren’t advertised a lot, which is good because the crowds are small, unlike the majority of music events.”
Abney said she attended a movie promo for the upcoming movie “Neighbors,” which she found out about through actor Zac Efron’s Facebook page.
“My friend and I had waited in line since 9 a.m., but we ended up making some friends with other Aggies in line so the time went by fast,” Abney said. “Around noon, a staff member handed out VIP cards for the first 30 people in line, which my friend and I received. I was totally freaking out. The stars of the movie did a Q-and-A, and then the lucky VIP people – all girls, by the way – got to go on stage and receive a movie poster to have them sign. I got to grab a picture of Dave Franco and a selfie with Zac Efron. It was really quick, but definitely worth the wait.”
Abney said the free merchandise offered to festival-goers is generally what prompts them to attend events.
“People will hand out different things advertising different bands or films and they’re like, ‘Oh free food,’ or, ‘No badge required,’ and people will definitely attend the event,” Abney said. “I hadn’t planned on going to some events, but because of the free stuff I got handed I went to go check it out.”
Bands, both locally and widely known, seek popularity during SXSW. Chandler Holloway, freshman philosophy major and SXSW volunteer, said the festival is a good way for unknown or rising bands to gain popularity.
“SXSW is great for smaller bands to start getting recognized outside of the local music scene,” Holloway said. “Unlike ACL, where you have to be booked on a major stage to get any significant airtime at all, SXSW can attract audiences to shows that are not booked officially by the festival.”
Marwitz said another reason SXSW produces so much publicity for bands and films is because of the free events offered during the festival.
“There are so many music lovers in Austin during SXSW who are always looking for new artists or films,” Marwitz said. “Many artists who no one knew of previously surface at SXSW just because there are so many people willing to hear their music.”

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