Before Smokey Robinson's keynote address Thursday at the Austin Convention Center, SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke dedicated the festival to the memory of Alex Chilton, whose death from a heart attack Wednesday night stunned attendees and musicians. Chilton's band Big Star was to play the final showcase at Antone's on Saturday, as well as appear on a Big Star panel earlier that day.
Big Star's Jody Stephens told Billboard.com that he and current members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer will be the "house band" for a tribute at Antone's during the Big Star slot. Likely guests include Andy Hummel — the original bassist — M. Ward, John Doe, Chris Stamey and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Stephens said.
Across the festival Wednesday night and Thursday, acts such as Dawes and Tim Easton dedicated or covered Big Star songs. Cheap Trick dedicated its "Austin City Limits" taping to him.
Here is some reaction from musicians at SXSW:
‘We're gonna get breakfast going with some volume today. Too bad there was no sleep last night, but that's what happens when you listen to a bunch of Big Star records until dawn. That's just what you do.' — Tim Easton,opening Twangfest at Jovita's at noon Thursday
‘Now they'll finally be what their name proclaimed. That's one of rock's biggest ironies. They should have been big stars.' — Patterson Hoodof the Drive By Truckers on Thursday at Waterloo Records
‘I didn't know or work with Alex, but I did work with Jim Dickinson. And when Jim died last year, he had a wonderful thing put on his tombstone; it said, ‘I'm not gone, I'm just dead.' And I think that would fit Alex, as well. It's tough when another great one passes, but that's the great thing about music — it lives on.' — John Hiatt
‘I do remember the first time I heard ‘The Letter.' It was 1966, I think, and I must have been 13. I remember thinking, "Where'd THAT voice come from?" It sure sounded older than anyone that might be listening to the song. It was a different era, a different time. It sounded like it came from under the world.' — Buddy Miller
‘We found out right before we hit the stage last night. I used to cover "Thirteen" back in my solo acoustic days. They never got their due. They're kind of like the Velvet Underground. They never sold any records, but everybody that listened to them decided to be in a band.' — Luke Temple, lead singer/guitarist for Here We Go Magic
‘Alex Chilton is gone. And it hurts. After I read the news about Chilton's passing, I went onto Facebook to check in with friends I can't be with here at SXSW in Austin. Many of them are musicians and artists, and never had I seen an entire news feed filled with variations on the same despair.' — Carrie Brownstein, ex-Sleater-Kinney guitarist, on her blog at NPR.org