Music Festivals

SXSW 2011: Cops Mace Rioting Crowd at Death From Above 1979 Reunion Show

The final hours of South by Southwest ended in, what else, a musically induced riot. Maybe it was the supermoon, or perhaps it was that Death From Above 1979, who hadn't performed in five years, played an unannounced show at Beauty Bar's back patio, making their fans completely insane. I was with the insane people in an alley behind the show where clashes with the police and an encounter with their horses left most of us grimy and some of us covered in pepper spray.

After being "asked to leave" from Mohawk, I wandered to what was rumored to be a secret show with an awesomely named band, Not In The Face. Instead, DFA was performing, who weren't on the list. Even after such a long hiatus, they still have some very devoted fans.

DFA 1979 Play secret SXSW show, riot breaks out. | Beauty Bar (Austin, TX) from Ian Witlen on Vimeo.

As the crowd got more and more amped, singing along, they began to rip away the fence separating the legitimate crowd and the outsiders. Cops held up the fence from the inside. But after a kid in a leather jacket tumbled over it, the whole thing came down and the cops came out with tasers and pepper spray.

Oblivious to the extent of the madness, I didn't back away when the leather-jacketed fence-jumper, blinded by mace, stumbled right into my arms. All wet and confused with the words "mace" and "tasers" ringing in my already ringing ears, I yelled for water. A kind man poured it on me first and then into the guy's eyes. Another affected partier was washing his eyes out with a can of Lone Star beer. Someone next to me said, "Sounds a little rusty." I laughed.

Then the mounted police arrived and rode around in a circle for a minute before galloping slowly through the crowd, back and forth, parting the sea of people, which subsequently became wilder. People were climbing telephone poles, cars, and each other. One lady cop used her horse to fend rioters off.

If this had taken place anywhere else in the country, the horses would have been used to trample peoples' faces. But Austin is a nice place. The smells of a hot day, stale beer, beasts of burden, and poison all said, "Go home." Yet people stayed. The band finished their set and then everyone left a little bit more ready for either bed or a fight.

Till next year.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy