SXSWORLD November 2012


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(L-R): Louis Jay Meyers, Brent and Roland Swenson at SXSW HQ in 1990; Brent marries Kristen Brock, December 2002; Introducing Pete Townshend's music keynote address at SXSW 2007; With son Graham in Paris, 2010; SXSW 2012: (L-R) Louis Black, Hugh Forrest, Brent, Bruce Springsteen, Andy Flynn, and Swenson; Grulkefest memorial concert, September 2012. his roommate at a house where several prime movers in the music community lived. In the spring of 1988, he and two other room- mates relocated to San Francisco, only to return by the end of the summer. In August 1990, Brent became music editor of the Austin Chronicle; earlier that year, he also rejoined the SXSW ranks as Showcase Production Coordinator. His production-team comrade Steve Chaney recalls that he, Brent and the late Biff Parker (who died in 2011), also helped put on the inaugural balls for Texas gov- ernor Ann Richards in January 1991. Texas roots artists. Th e following year, 1993, was the only time Brent's name appeared in the SXSW directory as an industry registrant. His listed address, though, was once again Austin: He'd talked his label bosses into relocating the company to Texas, after a Townes Van Zandt/Guy Clark concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. "At that show, I thought, 'I have to get back home,' " he told Canadian journalist Larry LeBlanc in 2009. In 1994, his SXSW cohorts wel- comed him back as Panels Team Leader. SXSW co-founder Louis Jay Meyers, the ringleader of the music festival, departed after the '94 event, and Brent became Music Program Team Leader in 1995. Th e following year, he was named Creative Director. "Brent pushed the boundaries," says SXSW Managing Director Roland Swenson, noting that the festival had just 500 bands in 30 venues before Grulke took it over. "In 1995, no one thought we could ever book 2,000 acts in over 100 venues. People complained, said it was too much, the event would collapse. But SXSW only got more fun, infl uential and rewarding for the participants." 1992 Brent moved to Los Angeles and took a job managing Spindletop Records, which released albums by mostly 1996 the Electric Lounge. Th e headliner was Wounded Turkey, a band led by Jeff Smith, Brent's former Bands on the Block co-producer. Meanwhile, Brent was broadening SXSW's horizons in both size and scope. "He had an amazing knowledge and appreciation for many genres," Swenson noted. "If you've ever marveled over how broad a spectrum of music is presented at SXSW, that's because of Brent." By 1999, the festival had grown to 829 acts, selected from 4,500 submis- sions. One of the last performers added that year was Tom Waits, whose manager called just two weeks before the event. To fend off scalpers on the night of the show, he and other SXSW staff ers went down to Paramount Th eatre and handed free tickets to anyone who approached a scalper. "And I watched that show," he confessed to Susan Shepard later. "I turned off my radio and watched that show. I was not gonna miss Tom Waits." Not only did Brent settle into his lifelong job, he also met Kristen Brock at a Th anksgiving show at ceremony. Th eir son, Graham, was born on July 16, 2005. "When he was at home, it was pretty much regular Dad stuff ," Kristen says of Brent. She notes that Graham shares Brent's fascination with col- lecting things, though his objects of desire are Looney Tunes cartoon characters rather than albums and books. On one of their many over- seas trips together, Roland and Brent "dug through a pile of fi lthy stuff ed animals in an Argentinian fl ea market and found a moldy Speedy Gonzales," Kristen recalls. As SXSW continued to grow its international base, Brent visited dozens of countries, helping to bring global artists to Austin every March. In 2007, Brent introduced one of his idols as SXSW's keynote speaker, Th e Who's Pete Townshend. Th at same year, Brent's father attended SXSW for the fi rst time. As Brent wrote in the SXSW Scrapbook, his father, who would pass away less than a year later, had a terrifi c time and, at the end of the week, "quietly told me, 'Son, I guess I don't have to worry about your being in the music business anymore.' " 2002 Having started dating a couple years earlier, Brent and Kristen got married on December 16 in a civil erupted and grounded almost all air travel across the Europe for a couple of weeks. Th e good fortune was that this was a rare occasion when Kristen and Graham had accompanied him on a trip. After a few days in Paris, they took a train down to Montpellier to visit an old SXSW colleague, writer Ed Ward. "Graham was the one who really impressed me," Ward remarked of Brent and Kristen's then four-year- old son. "It just never occurred to me that I wasn't dealing with three adults." True to form, Kristen recalls, when Graham recently overheard a couple at a playground discussing a possible visit to Paris, he chimed in thoughtfully: "Paris is nice, but I prefer Montpellier." A major honor for Brent was being selected for the nominating committee of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, a philanthropic venture by the famed watchmaker that pairs young artists with mentors in a variety of artistic fi elds for collaborative purposes. A photo from a November 2011 gala shows Brent with fellow committee members including Brian Eno, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. 2010 Brent was at a French music festival in Bourges in April when the Iceland volcano Eyjafj allajökull ered at the ACL Moody Th eater in Austin to celebrate and remember him with the music that he loved. Th ousands more watched a live video stream of the performance on the SXSW website. Eight Austin bands performed: True Believers, Doctors' Mob, Glass Eye, the Reivers, Wild Seeds, Fastball, Sixteen Deluxe and the Wannabes. Th e event raised $75,000 for the Graham Grulke Education Fund. ★ 2012 SXSW ORLD / N OVEMBER 2012 Th ree weeks after Brent's death from a heart attack on August 13, around 1,300 of his closest friends gath- 13 COURTESY OF KRISTEN BROCK GRULKE BRIAN BIRZER AMY PRICE

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