Pittsburghers see rebound at SXSW

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Singer-songwriter Mike Medved, one of the many Pittsburgh artists in Austin this week for SXSW, didn't know about the tragedy until the next morning.

"I woke up to a lot of text messages [Thursday] making sure I was all right. I was obviously pretty upset to learn what happened."

Veteran LA punk band X was on stage at The Mohawk early Thursday morning when two people were killed and 23 injured out front after a suspected drunken driver trying to evade police crashed into a crowd on Red River Street. Some were waiting outside to see rapper Tyler, the Creator, who was scheduled to perform after X.

Witnesses told the Houston Chronicle that the music outside was at a volume that it made it hard to tell what was happening as the Honda Civic plowed through barricades. In videos that have been posted online, X can be overheard, unaware of the incident, playing "Nausea" in the background as first responders attend to victims.

Austin police arrested 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens, a rapper there to perform under the name Kill-ingAllBeatz or K.A.B254. Mr. Owens will face two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle, police said.

Fortunately, none of the Pittsburghers in Austin was injured. Festival organizers decided it was best to go on with the 27th annual music conference, which showcases hundreds of acts, from new buzz bands to Lady Gaga and Kanye West.

"It was such a sad and unfortunate thing to have happen," C.T. Fields, of Pittsburgh band Lovebettie, said Friday. "It scared a lot of people. The city and venues have really come together to take care of everything."

By Friday morning, he said, "There was a big bounceback and new energy at SXSW. I think in some way it reminded people to be more grateful for life."

Steve Soboslai, a Pittsburgher now living in Nashville and best known for fronting Punchline, is in Austin with his latest band, Blue of Colors.

"We noticed a heightened sense of caution among the crowd," he said Friday. "I expected the hit-and-run would be an inescapable topic of conversation, but no one brought it up. You could tell though that everyone was thinking about it."

Young Pittsburgh rapper Devin Miles was at a show two blocks away from the incident. He said Friday, "Everyone wants to be safe. Everyone is in high spirits."

"To walk down Sixth Street," Mr. Medved said, "it would be difficult to tell anything bad had happened a few days ago."

However, he said, "Most of the musicians have mentioned the accident during their set and took a second to remind the crowd how important and fragile life is."

Scot Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.

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