Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 25, 2014
Don Pitts, manager of the City of Austin Music & Entertainment division – the office that issues permits for all official and unofficial South by Southwest events –confirmed Tuesday night that a permit request for Lady Gaga to play the Doritos Stage at SXSW 2014 was denied. For the last two years Doritos has built a giant vending machine in the parking lot of Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant at 504 E Fifth Street in Downtown Austin. Last year the stage hosted a superstar hip-hop show with a lineup featuring L.L. Cool J, Ice Cube and Public Enemy. The vending machine is set to return to the same location but Lady Gaga and her “little monsters” will have to party somewhere else after the city determined that the venue could not sustain Gaga’s level of talent and the crowds that she might draw.
“Our conclusion was based primarily on public safety concerns,” Pitts said via email. “As part of the review process the applicant provides a talent list to the city team (AFD, APD, ATCEMS and Office of Special Events) to review and we can adjust public resources as needed. We look at the size and capacity of the location covered by the permit being sought and how it fits with the anticipated attendance, based on event capacity and promotion. At the end of the day, it’s a parking lot.”
“We informed the applicant that we would support relocation to an established venue with the necessary permanent infrastructure,” Pitts added.
With the music conference less than two weeks away and no keynote speaker announced Gaga’s name was already floating as a credible candidate. While Gaga lacks the performance history of former keynote speakers like Bruce Springsteen, her enormous international stature and unique level of interaction with her rabid fan base (the afore-mentioned ‘little monsters’) certainly make her keynote-worthy. She’s also an articulate speaker who has campaigned tirelessly throughout her career for gay rights, an issue that exploded into the forefront of popular culture last year. Gaga is also coming off the widely panned 2013 release “Artpop” and might be looking for the kind of buzz bump that a big SXSW appearance can provide.