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SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke Dead at 52

Brent Grulke

One of rock’s most hotly anticipated annual festivals lost a key component of its success yesterday (Aug. 13), when SXSW creative director Brent Grulke passed away at the young age of 52.

Grulke, who succumbed to cardiac arrest following oral surgery, was a fixture on the Austin music scene for decades, moving from the music desk at the Austin Chronicle to a variety of functions at SXSW — starting with a job as a stage manager during the festival’s first year in 1987.

As creative director for SXSW, Grulke was responsible for booking the many acts who crowded the festival stages every year, helping to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the city he’d called home since the early ’80s.

“A lot of Brent’s personality was in SXSW,” said festival director Roland Swenson in a statement. “He was adventurous and knowledgeable and excited about creative people and endeavors. 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.”

Austin American Statesman writer Michael Corcoran called Grulke “a music man,” remembering that “he bought tons of records and worked with bands … The reason that 2,000 acts play SXSW every year, instead of a more manageable 700 or 800 is, in part, because Grulke just wanted more, more, more when it came to music.”

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