SXSW shouldn’t stop you
No matter who played, no matter who attended and no matter who got discovered, Austin’s 28th annual South by Southwest Festival will be most remembered as “the one where the drunk guy killed those people.”
Yet when news broke that a drunk driver barrelled through barricades early last Thursday morning and killed a man and a woman and wounded 23 others, it was almost shocking nothing this horrific had happened there before.
Although it is common for people to experience self-induced medical emergencies at festivals, it feels as if any area where a large group of people congregate for one common event—be it a music festival, a marathon or even just school—something awful happens.
Something awful should not overshadow the overall good.
The festival is owned by a company, SXSW Interactive, as made clear by the countless displays of corporation-suggested hashtags for attendees, but is ironically a springboard for independent and undiscovered artists to connect with fans and producers.
It is the largest festival of its kind in the world, drawing tens of thousands of people and more than 2,000 artists for 10 days of music and film and opportunity. Not so much if you’re Tyler, the Creator, who might be Tyler, the inmate, but I digress.
The awful event, in light of the Boston Marathon’s 2013 bombing and the 2012 theatre shooting in Aurora, Colo., could be interpreted as an ominous sign for festival attendees who are told by organizers they are safe.
I’ve thought it. You’ve thought it. When I buy a plane ticket, or get passes in the mail, or even while I am walking around our hometown events, I’ve thought, for a split second, what if?
I let it go. I let it go because you can’t live like that.
It’s so easy to become desensitized to the news. So easy that it didn’t take people long to come up with a punchline connecting the tragedy to killing off hipsters, though these aren’t just numbers; they’re people. Identifying them as a statistic is an attempt to distance their humanity from our own, but we only succeed in temporarily masking our fear.
We’re scared it could happen to us. What if?
Louisiana in particular has an abundance of festivals either near or within it. Free Press in Houston and Hangout in Gulf Shores are on the horizon, as is New Orleans’ Jazz Fest. It’s not unfathomable that something could happen, whether on accident or not. I just have one favor to ask: don’t let your fear dictate your actions.
In 1999, before school shootings became a monthly occurrence, Columbine happened in my family’s home state. I could not fathom how or why someone would want to murder their classmates, and when I asked my mother if I could stay home from school the next day because I was scared, she said, “No, you must go. You cannot let the bad people of this world control you like that. That’s not living.”
She’s right. It’s easy to see all of the evil in the world as a deterrent from leaving your home, but in expecting the worst to happen, you deprive yourself. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m too scared to leave the familiar because of irrational fear. That’s not how you make a memory.
Whether it’s a music festival or a 5k or Festival International, go. Feel free. You owe it to yourself.