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To SXSW and Back: A tragic night in Austin

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Rusty Maples
Corlene Byrd
Max Plenke

Las Vegas band Rusty Maples is touring its way toward Austin, where official showcases at this year's South by Southwest festival await. Drummer Max Plenke, a journalist who frequently contributes music content for the Weekly, checks in with a series of reports from the road.

Day 6: The SXSW Tragedy The sound interrupted Kurt Vile’s set at Cheer Up Charlie’s on 9th and Red River Street. A terrible, powerful crunch, meaty and man-made, that echoed against the darkened buildings behind it.

We stood 12 feet away, just on the other side of a chain link fence. From standing on a couple chairs, it appeared the driver broke through a barrier and plowed into three pedestrians. But as the ambulances and additional squad cars arrived and we walked out into the street, the scene grew, multiplied northward, until reds and blues covered the asphalt, illuminating bodies deep into a dark horizon.

The first Austin Police Department Twitter update said 23 victims were transported to the hospital. Five in critical condition. Two deceased.

As we left the scene and ventured south to account for all of our own, we couldn’t help but look at the faces, the contrast between those walking south and those walking north. All of those coming from the crash had a look of knowing something. Something no one should have to know.

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