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As Tribute to its Namesake, Grulke Prize Honors Visionary Artists by Luke Torn 46 S X S W O R L D / M AY 2 0 1 3 R I TA Q U I N N / G E T T Y I M A G E S Winner for Developing U.S. Act, Haim at Stubb's. Winner for Developing Non-US Act, CHVRCHES at Red 7 Patio. KELSEE BECKER W hen SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke passed away suddenly late last summer, the Austin music scene and his vast network of friends, confidantes and co-conspirators from around the world sunk into depths of shock and disbelief. Grulke was not only the magnificent driving force behind the success and concomitant expansion of SXSW, but was also a friend, fan, advocate, raconteur, cultural connoisseur and networker par excellence. His force-of-nature personality stretched onto an array of improbable paths where he forged new alliances and ignited new possibilities along the way. He was a one-man social medium. Those qualities seemed to transcend the drier, biographical details of his life, but those too conveyed some of the myriad worlds he touched. In Grulke's lengthy career within many provinces of the music industry, from writer and editor at the Austin Chronicle, to sound engineer, tour manager and record label head, to finally settling in as Creative Director of SXSW Music, he continually sought out social and professional connections, exploring ways that artists might receive due (or, all too often, long overdue) respect and success. As time passed and the shock of his death subsided (if only barely), thoughts turned to ways of acknowledging and extending his legacy. Among the ideas developed at SXSW was the Grulke Prize, designed to reflect Brent's enthusiasm for creativity among both young, up-andcoming artists and veteran acts who challenge themselves to ever-loftier heights. The prize, or prizes, subsequently awarded in three categories, symbolize both Grulke's love of music and the dogged artistic spirit at the heart of SXSW. "Brent always thought of SXSW Music as a tool for artists to use to develop their careers," explains Roland Swenson, SXSW co-founder and managing director. "Hopefully, the Grulke Prize will make a difference for the inaugural winners." "We'd come up with the idea to initially have three awards," Swenson continues, "two for developing acts, one foreign, one domestic, and the idea of giving a 'career' award for an established act." The former is intended to shine the spotlight on artists breaking new creative ground and showing the greatest promise in achieving career goals. The latter awards veteran artists whose appearance at SXSW signifies a major reinvention or launches an important new project. The winners are chosen by a jury of music critics, industry professionals and SXSW staff who knew and worked with Brent over the years. Along with the recognition, each group receives a cash prize. "Brent and I had frequently brainstormed over the years about giving out a post-festival award," Swenson reminisces. "We'd talk about it, then get bogged down in all the stuff we had to do every year and wouldn't get it together in time. We discussed it again on our last trip together, in July while we were in London for a conference during the Olympics." "After Brent died, we decided to make it happen," Swenson says. "A few of us came up with a list of a couple of dozen people who knew Brent, from a variety of occupations and locales, whose taste we knew Brent respected. We sent them a questionnaire asking them to name three acts in each category who played SXSW 2013. We took the top five from that poll and had the music fest booking staff vote on those, which is how we selected the winners." So, vis-à-vis the Career Act category, take a bow Flaming Lips! The indie-pop darlings and psych experimentalists have a long, gloriously tangled history with SXSW, including the Great Parking Garage Experiment of 1997 and later, the live debut of The Soft Bulletin, its flagship album. This year, the band brought its bleakest yet perhaps poppiest project ever, The Terror, with an ambitious stage show to match. Both of its shows at The Belmont club and Auditorium Shores featured a torrent of krautrock, electro, psychedelia and performance art, showing a band remarkably pushing the creative envelope as it enter its fourth decade of existence. The Flaming Lips donated the money from its award to the The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, located in its hometown of Oklahoma City. "What a great surprise and wonderful acknowledgement," muses lead Lip Wayne Coyne on his band's receiving the prize. "We always knew there was a true weirdo and visionary behind the creation of SXSW. And for us to receive this wonderful recognition is akin to the Tin Man receiving his heart from the Wizard of Oz."

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