Scene Report: Grulkefest

Scene Report: Grulkefest: A Celebration of Brent at ACL Live. Pete Mongillo. Austin, Sep. 9, 2012.
Austin 360’s Photo Gallery from the event.

As a crowd gathered at Republic Square Park to watch the UT football team take on New Mexico on Saturday night, another group came together around the corner at ACL Live for a much different reason — to pay tribute to Brent Grulke, the longtime creative director for SXSW music who died on Aug. 13 at age 51.

“Brent used to say things like ‘rock is for kids’ — but it also makes you feel like a kid,” Jeff McCord, who served as emcee for the night, said from the stage.

Sixteen Deluxe, Wannabes, Fastball, Wild Seeds, the Reivers, Doctors’ Mob, Glass Eye and True Believers performed. Grulke worked with many of them directly as a sound man, producer, or manager. All proceeds from Grulkefest: A Celebration of Brent went to an education fund set up for Grulke’s young son, Graham.

Despite the sad circumstances for the gathering, the bands confirmed what McCord said. People on the floor in front of the stage danced like ACL Live was one of the small, poorly lit rock clubs where the bands played decades ago.

When the Reivers took the stage at 9 p.m., people filled the lower two levels of theater. McCord explained that though they’d been “hiding out under an assumed name,” the band had been in the studio and would be back with a new album by the end of the year.

Doctors’ Mob delivered punky bar rock; Glass Eye guitarist Kathy McCarty pointed to a different side of Grulke — one that always treated female musicians seriously as artists.

True Believers wrapped up with a set that stretched over an hour. Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham wielded guitars side by side in an electric finish to the night. “If Brent was here right now he’d be laughing his (expletive) off,” Graham said.

Finally, a somber note with Alejandro and Jon Dee remaining on stage together. “Shhhh,” Graham whispered. “For Graham.” Then, in his gravelly voice, he began “Sleep Enough to Dream”: “My father died on a bed of fire.”