SXSW 2011: Cops Mace Rioting Crowd at Death From Above 1979 Reunion Show

Categories: SXSW, Video
Photo by Ian Witlen
The fence comes down and the mace comes out.
The final hours of South by Southwest ended in, what else, a musically induced riot. Maybe it was the supermoon, or perhaps it was that Death From Above 1979, who hadn't performed in five years, played an unannounced show at Beauty Bar's back patio, making their fans completely insane. I was with the insane people in an alley behind the show where clashes with the police and an encounter with their horses left most of us grimy and some of us covered in pepper spray.

After being "asked to leave" from Mohawk, I wandered to what was rumored to be a secret show with an awesomely named band, Not In The Face. Instead, DFA was performing, who weren't on the list. Even after such a long hiatus, they still have some very devoted fans.

DFA 1979 Play secret SXSW show, riot breaks out. | Beauty Bar (Austin, TX) from Ian Witlen on Vimeo.

As the crowd got more and more amped, singing along, they began to rip away the fence separating the legitimate crowd and the outsiders. Cops held up the fence from the inside. But after a kid in a leather jacket tumbled over it, the whole thing came down and the cops came out with tasers and pepper spray.

Photo by Ian Witlen

Photo by Ian Witlen

Oblivious to the extent of the madness, I didn't back away when the leather-jacketed fence-jumper, blinded by mace, stumbled right into my arms. All wet and confused with the words "mace" and "tasers" ringing in my already ringing ears, I yelled for water. A kind man poured it on me first and then into the guy's eyes. Another affected partier was washing his eyes out with a can of Lone Star beer. Someone next to me said, "Sounds a little rusty." I laughed.

Photo by Ian Witlen

Photo by Ian Witlen

Then the mounted police arrived and rode around in a circle for a minute before galloping slowly through the crowd, back and forth, parting the sea of people, which subsequently became wilder. People were climbing telephone poles, cars, and each other. One lady cop used her horse to fend rioters off.

Photo by Ian Witlen

Photo by Ian Witlen

If this had taken place anywhere else in the country, the horses would have been used to trample peoples' faces. But Austin is a nice place. The smells of a hot day, stale beer, beasts of burden, and poison all said, "Go home." Yet people stayed. The band finished their set and then everyone left a little bit more ready for either bed or a fight.

Till next year.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Finally (48 hours) time limit to buy.

LV Muffler $ 5.99LV Bags $ 19.9 LV Wallet $ 6.55Armani Glasses $ 5.99LV Belt $ 6.9

Buy addresses---- tntn.usTips (48 hours after the special product is invalid)

Emily Sue
Emily Sue

Oh HELL no. Ha. It's nice to see rioting for such an important cause. I also love that in the video some people appear to be pushing through the crowd in a hopeful attempt to get tasered and/or maced. It is very hard to believe the show went on - I agree, only in Austin.


I was supposed to be inside shooting the show for SPIN, but due to capacity issues I couldn't pick up my credentials. A large crowd formed outside to catch a glimpse of the band's first show in about five years.

The fence to the Beauty Bar patio was ripped down after security and police inside sprayed mace on the crowd that was outside. I cannot be sure who it was, either a security guard or police officer inside the fenced in venue put his or her taser on the metal fence, shocking those who were holding onto it. Immediately, the crowd tore the fence down. Inciting police to once again mace people the crowd.

A SPIN writer, who was there to review the show, was also maced. Although he was in obvious pain, Kevin proceeded to continue taking notes. He turned to me asking "Hey Ian, was that 'Black History Month' they were playing when the shit went down?" Trying to make an intense situation a little lighter.

It took six mounted police officers along with another eight on foot to clear the alley behind Beauty Bar. They also also had four cop cars block off the ends of the alley. Police on foot were wielding industrial cans of mace, spraying them at people who would not back up.

They shut down the show for 15 minutes before letting DFA resume playing. Those who were walking away heard the music resume and came rushing back to hear the band. Only this time the crowd was much larger.

A police officer threatened to arrest me for using a flash to photograph the police incident. Understanding that I was on public property, I politely turned to him and said, "You are doing your job and I am doing mine. I am going to continue taking photos." To which he responded with an act of intimidation. I did not back down and kept documenting.

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault